Google leadership and you get 4,430,000,000 results! What does that tell you? Are you surprised, is that what you expect and what does that really mean about leadership?
What it tells me that there is no one way to lead otherwise that number would be significantly lower. Also that there is a certain obsession with the term and it has been laid out on the surgeon’s table and every muscle, nerve, fibre and cell exposed and over-analysed. Additionally, that leadership is not natural to us or we wouldn’t be seeking so much for information on it. It also tells me that there must be a lot of confusion out there amongst all that information or, that people are missing the simplicity that makes leadership what it is.
Consider this simple reflection: You do not manage people they manage themselves. You lead people either toward or away from the outcome you desire based on the quality of the relationship they have with you. Take that to heart for a moment. The key for me is in the comment “the quality of the relationship they have with you…” not “you have with them”.
A critical point is that everyone has leadership potential and – while we have been told that there are only a few who have “what it takes” and they are pursued, our collective role in the social and interdependent interaction we have in our workspaces is to acknowledge and encourage that potential, regardless of whether you hold the formal badge of hierarchical leadership or not i.e the power of position.
So, what is leadership really about? For me it is about inspiring people to define and pursue their own futures aligned to true values and while you have them in your organisation supporting them find clarity of intention, vision and purpose i.e. signposting the path and guiding them to the path where they take their own journey.
Surely creating the space where engaged people are enabled to be unstintingly honest in communicating about what is working well and what needs to change in regard to achieving clear and shared goals and being empowered in creating that new reality is a key aspiration?
Leadership is also about challenging people, helping them to think beyond the boundaries of their limitations, helping people to become aware of the constraints of their development, environmental influences and education. It is critical to be able to do that without judgment in order for change to be understood, accepted and actioned.
Whether you agree or disagree with any or all of what is written, what I would ask you to do is to take note of two writings, two inspirational treatises that hold even more currency today than they did when they were first published. The first is the essay by Robert K. Greenleaf published in 1970 “The Servant as Leader” where the desire to serve is first before all else.
The second is by Joe Jaworski published in 1996 titled “Sychronicity: The Inner path to Leadership” his own story describing the journey of transformation to authenticity. Both of these wonderful works highlight the philosophy that leadership is about a state of “being” not “doing” and surely that is something simple enough to aspire to be?