I’ve always been interested in the idea of leadership. When you walk into a bookstore, shelves are lined with hundreds of examples, each with its own various method of success. I’ve also read several books on the subject, simply because I feel it essential to my personal growth and professional education.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But I can’t help but put in my “two cents” since the issue of leadership has come up time and time again, and virtually unavoidable in business today.
I was also inspired by a friend who was having some leadership issues. A president of a student volunteer organization was faced with other board members’ laziness and tasked with an administrative assistant who, from the way it sounded, stepped out of bounds. The group was praised time and time again by the school’s administration and continues to be extremely successful. Yet, she still feels she fails as a leader. She wanted her and her team to accomplish more. She tries to lead, but avoids confrontation, letting things go a “little too far.” After further discussion, what she said shocked me, “I feel like I’ve gone downhill and I’m bringing everyone down with me.”
To me, this wasn’t a matter of going up or pulling down, but more about reigning people in. It was about being strong as a leader, influencing those around her. The board members were “scattered”, each with their own strengths and weaknesses – and doing very little work, if any at all. By being a good leader, and having strong discussions with the team, she could bring people together and allow everyone draw on each other’s strengths. She could allow the group to succeed.
If a project were to fail, the team examines why it failed, and corrects the issues preventing those failures from happening again, then she’s learning to become a better leader. If things fail, and you don’t do anything about it, then she’s in for a rough ride.
It dawned on me that no one has written the all-powerful, definitive leadership book. Leading is a learning experience.
I’m sure you’ve heard about some of them: the 7 habits, the 21 Laws, the officer “fixing” his ship, the psychotherapist method, and many others. But what is leadership? The idea has been debated too many times to count, and the answer doesn’t come easy.
I read in an academic text that there are over 3,500 definitions of leadership. Through those, we see a variety of things: leadership may or may not be directly related to management; leadership is and isn’t something we can be good at. People are or are not predisposed to have certain leadership traits.
In my opinion, leadership involves four major characteristics:
1. Leaders must have followers
2. Leadership involves influence those followers
3. Leadership involves the attainment of goals
4. Leadership involves tasks on the conscious and unconscious level
I feel leadership is within us all. There’s some small part of us that at one historic moment, during some event, something inside us felt inherently passionate. We may or may not have done anything with the feeling but the passion was there nonetheless. To create a great leader, the passion behind that thought needs developed. The combination of that development with the ability to instill initiative and synergize others, creates a great leader. A delicate, challenging task, but one that works well.
(to be continued…)