In this article I aim to achieve the following:
– dispel common myths about leadership,
– emphasize the tremendous importance of personal leadership in all walks of life,
– reveal a surprising facet of leadership and
– leave you with steps to take to develop a key quality of effective leadership.
Intrigued, then read on!
Leadership is a concept that is mis understood by many people.Until recently that included me as well.
Leadership is not about telling people what to do. Nor is leadership something that has to be practiced only by senior executives in large corporations. Leadership is not a genetic trait though some are born great leaders. Leadership is very much a learnable skill. Research conducted into the lives of some of the greatest leaders reveals undeniable evidence that they had picked up effective leadership skills on the way.
To really understand leadership you have to do the following:
– Understand the evolution of leadership down the ages
– Consider some of the important leadership models
– look both inside yourself and outside.
While there are various definitions of leadership, some so academic you would become more confused than enlightened, the one I like best is:
“Leadership is about CHANGING the status quo”. – Wyatt Woodsmart
Note that leadership is not about keeping things the same.
Another definition that I like is by Eben Pagan:
“Leadership is the ability to effect human behavior so as to accomplish a mission”.
A Brief History of Leadership
When society first developed, a hierarchical model of leadership evolved. Some leaders were great and their people flourished. Some were not and their people suffered.
As society evolved further we got religious leaders.
And later, politicians emerged as elected leaders.
And finally business leaders.
Managers came into existence much more recently in the late nineteenth century. The common belief is that managers were invented when two trains one each from Buffalo and New York city collided. A post mortem revealed the need to have someone oversee the movements of trains.
In the traditional model a charismatic / autocratic leader of pre eminent status creates a vision for the future. He then issues clear directions to his followers.
Orders flow from top to bottom.
Information flows from top to bottom.
The Modern Model.
Leadership is a collaborative process. Anyone can engage in leadership when there is a need for change.
We cannot do it all ourselves, we need others. Hence the need for collaboration.
The Inner Game of Leadership
The concept of the inner game first came into popular vogue with the publication of the phenomenal book “The Inner Game of Tennis” by Timothy Gallwey in 1972. Gallwey wrote “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game.” The former is played against opponents, and is filled with lots of contradictory advice; the latter is played not against, but within the mind of the player, and its principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety.
This concept can be extended to leadership as well. What goes on inside you is more important than what goes on outside. Your state of mind, your visualizations, your beliefs, self motivation, internal behavior, how you perceive problems etc.
The inner game of leadership is particularly challenging to understand. In the business world an undue emphasis is placed on results. Results that are tangible, quantifiable and measurable. In other words the emphasis is completely on the outer game, what happens on the outside.
Most successful leaders operate out of unconscious competence. They do not know what they are doing right mentally.
Leadership and You
If you look at some of the biggest losers in life a common theme you will notice is their lack of leadership. A lack which manifests itself in their inability to attract people that can help them, an inability to collaborate with people that can help them.
Leadership is an important skill for the future because it connects people. An important equation to know is:
Your Success in Life = Your Skill As a Leader
Until you can lead yourself it is very difficult to lead others.
A Surprising Take on Leadership
Most people think leadership is about ordering people around but to become a great leader you need to become a great follower. When you become a good follower you put your personal needs aside to serve and support others. Think of it. You get promoted because you serve your boss well. Often the person at the top is one who is best at supporting others.
The best leader is one who is the best supporter of others.
What is a vision – a key attribute of effective leadership
Humans have a unique gift, an ability to imagine a future that does not yet exist. A vision is a constructive picture, an image or a slide. It does not exist yet and is better than the present.
Leadership is about conscious change so vision is key to successful leadership. All change starts with the vision. To get other people to follow you we need to communicate a clear picture to others so that picture will enter their minds and become an attractor. In the modern world the collaborative group comes together to create the vision. Therefore the real key is in creating a compelling vision conjuring up all your creativity and imagination..
To develop a vision we should engage in reflective thinking. We should replace:
Information with inspiration
Knowledge with wisdom
Isolationist thinking with systems thinking
Detailed thinking with big picture thinking
Short term thinking with long term thinking
Things that divide us with things that unite us