The Secrets of the Gods? (leadership isn’t one of them)

I always thought if I read and became the master of all the tenants of leadership, I would be a good leader of an organization.  Sounds reasonable to me right?  Maybe,….  not.

I had an awakening a short while ago and started to understand something about leadership. I came to the realization that a great organization is not guided by a good leader, as much as it is by the culture that is “curated” by the leader.  I know it has been written in every book, blog and billboard that culture eat’s strategy for breakfast. However, what about all those leadership skills and the library of books, presentations I’ve listened to that tells me how to be?  Well, that’s the focus for me a short while back.

A good leader must be proficient in all the ways of leadership; Drucker, Bennis, Collins, Maxwell, etc.. but the reality is they aren’t telling us anything new. Leadership philosophy goes back to the beginning of time and is really reflected in Greek Mythology with Prometheus, father of mankind, who was hated by Zeus because of Prometheus’s foresight. There are many examples if you accurately define “leadership”.  Rallying troops, building a community, spearheading a project with a groundswell of followers and on and on.

What is leadership? “The action of leading a group of people or organization”?
lead·er·ship
[lee-der-ship]
noun
1.
the position or function of a leader,  a person who guides or directs a group: He managed
to maintain his leadership of the party despite heavy opposition. Synonyms:
 administration,management, directorship, control, governorship,stewardship, hegemony.
2.
ability to lead: As early as sixth grade she displayed remarkable leadership potential.
Synonyms: authoritativeness, influence,command, effectiveness; sway, clout.
The definition of leadership is best defined by his followers (me and probably some butterfly sage)

I get it, and so do you, but it’s not that easy to figure out why some “leaders” are more successful than others. Some have a style that is conducive to a product or process that may not work in a different organization trying the same approach. You still need to be very familiar with and proficient in the leadership styles and doctrines because they all come into play for great leaders. Leadership will emerge in every organization, unfortunately it will emerge in the presence of the organizational leader (so anointed) and rise to undermine or redirect the flow to their vision if they are not lead as well.  This means you will need to bring many leadership skills to bear in the crusade to building an organization that will embrace a direction.  All of the leadership skills that are documented can be learned and practiced, but until you can orchestrate them all in a symphony that is worth listening to, they are just what to “do” rather than how to “be”.  (Those who have read this blog before know the “how to be rather than how to do” mantra.)

How is this accomplished?

  1. Great leaders have passion. Enthusiasm must show, and BS will be seen from a mile away.
  2. Great leaders have vision. You must be able to explicitly see the goal.
  3. Great leaders are good story tellers. Communicating the vision must be engaging and rememberable. (read up on storytelling as a leadership skill)
  4. Great leaders propagate the species. Teach leadership, grow leaders in your organization, and plant the seeds of your vision as you do.  (this is the big secret)

All this to say, It’s about creating a culture that embraces your philosophies and insights and takes them in a common direction. A great leader can be obscure and really unknown  if he/she has the ability to plant the seeds of a vision with the leaders that will naturally emerge in an organization. Build the culture with empowering the right people, drafting the right policies, and being cognizant of the environment that will naturally impact both. The most valuable leadership skill of all, is taking care of the human processes.

Lessons in leadership from the Bottom

True “leadership” occurs at all levels of an organization. The old saying, “if you don’t like it, change it” in someway espouses that everyone has the ability to create change. This is true if they are also given the authority to carry through with the mission. Change is, at it’s very foundation, the definition of leadership. Leadership can be defined many ways, but moving from one position to another is a very clear explanation.

Story;

Rookie firefighter comes to work and is expected to learn the district. After looking over the map book, the rookie realizes the book is poorly organized and difficult to learn. Knowing there were better map books in the industry, the rookie requested a meeting with the Chief to see if he could convince him to change the book. The Chief met with the rookie and listened to the complaint of how inefficient the map book was and that there were better ones we could emulate to improve our process. The Chief, being a teacher of leadership, told the rookie to come back with an example and then he would evaluate it. The rookie, feeling somewhat validated but mostly challenged, set out to improve on the map book. After a week, the new proposal for a map book was presented to the Chief with some confidence and enthusiasm that the change would happen. Result; the Chief liked it enough to tell the rookie to develop, distribute and train everyone on the new map book.

The example was a classic story of leadership from both ends of the organization. The Chief was teaching and actually leading the change by engaging a rookie who exhibited enthusiasm for driving the change. The rookie realized there was something wrong in the system and brought it to the attention to the Chief. The responsibility assigned to the rookie  was given with the authority to create change.

Lesson learned;

change can occur from every position in an organization and when leadership emerges it should be fostered and supported with authority to carryout the initiative.