Choosing to Lead and Two Simple Truths

Leadership, while studied widely and deeply, remains misunderstood by a surprisingly large number of people.  In this world, there are some who would have us believe that leadership is only for a select few.  There are some too, who believe it is the job of leaders to rescue the rest of us from our various predicaments. And, when they fail, these same people feel somehow justified complaining about it.

I think leadership is available to all of us.  It is a choice we make.  It doesn’t always come with a title or a big office but it is there and it asks us to do something with it.  Of course, the more we learn about it, the more likely we are to make it a conscious part of our lives.

Those among us who  remain unconscious and unaware of their own potential to lead would do well to rouse themselves.  The world needs us all to wake up, not simply to point fingers of blame or criticism in someone else’s direction but to stand up for something, take responsibility for something or set a positive example for someone else.

If this sounds daunting, it could be.  But, it doesn’t have to be.  There will always be greater and lesser leaders among us.  But leadership does not always have to be larger than life. Nor does it have to be complicated.  There are two simple truths that guide me and here they are:

The First one is this.  Leadership is not about you

Real leadership happens when our role as leader becomes about something other than ourselves. At these times, our individual importance is overshadowed by the purpose we are there to serve.

Evidence of it is shown in the quality of our relationships with those around us. Leadership asks that we give others what they need to be at their best.  It asks us to guide them, coach them, talk to them, listen to them, encourage them, and expect the best from them.  Whatever we do, it must  be about that and about a shared purpose.  Real leadership is never about any one person.

The Second Truth is this.  You don’t have to be a hero

Peter Drucker once said, “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it.  It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”

Most of us are just that…average human beings.  We do not have to have special powers to lead. Sometimes all it takes is to believe in something enough to be willing to go first. Leadership is about caring.  It is about doing and participating.  If we expect perfection from it, we will be disappointed.  If we spend our time looking to the few for answers, we miss the opportunity to find our own answers and to explore possibilities that can only be found in the brainpower of the many.

The bottom line is, leadership is neither heroic nor about any one person.  It lives in us all.  We show it when we exercise our right to vote.  We show it as parents.  We show it in our communities when we volunteer.  We show it in our workplaces by being there and doing our best, regardless of our title.  So when we doubt our ability to make a difference because we don’t see ourselves as leaders, we would be doing ourselves a service by remembering that acts of leadership are choices we make. Be they big or small, all are important.

What do you think?


Filed under building awareness, Leadership, Leadership Shift, Servant Leadership

8 responses to “Choosing to Lead and Two Simple Truths

  1. Gwyn,

    I love your thought provoking conversations, clear and action oriented. Do you have to be “nominated” by your peers to be an effective leader; or do you make a real effort to develop relationships and help others in your immediate group succeed at their tasks?

    My wife, who manages a salon, believes unless she is empowered by the owner to perform her specific job tasks, she will be an ineffective manager. I think she can be a very effective leader by focusing on the needs of each member of her group even without the empowerment part.

    Any thoughts?

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Larry,
      I’m thinking that making the effort to build positive relationships and helping others succeed actually have a lot to do with earning the respect and trust of people who will look to you for leadership as well.
      I think too, that between boss and his/her employees, being clear and agreeing on the boundaries is important. Once you know those, then the space within the boundaries set can be open to interpretation making room for creative approaches and the leadership that goes along with that.
      Thanks for coming by and for your very generous words 🙂

  2. Hi Gwyn,
    Yes, it is amazing that so many people are still so unclear about leadership. What still surprises me is how many people in my audiences believe that “real” leaders are born leaders. That’s why I so appreciate the concept that has emerged from the Occupy movement – that every group is leader-full. Your post really speaks to that.
    You’re so right – leadership IS about caring. That’s still a radical concept. We still don’t associate caring, kindness and consideration with leadership. Thx for advancing the conversation!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Louise,

      Yes, this “born” vs “made” argument about leadership certainly has staying power. I wonder if those who seem to be ‘born’ with leadership skills are not just better at noticing what goes on around them and more easily empathetic. After all, I think we all gravitate toward people who take an interest in us and care about what’s going on for us. Having those qualities is a great start but of course we know that it’s what one does once the crowd has gathered that determines the capability and depth of the leadership skill present.

      Thanks for your kind words and adding your voice to this conversation. It’s always a pleasure to see you here 🙂

  3. Gwyn, music to my ears! You so eloquently put out there something I have beeb attempting to articulate. I find it ironic when I deal with companies who have a mindset of a certain band and up are regarded as leadership. What is even more sad, is within that elite group, a further sub-set of elite is created by identifying them for leadership development. The question I ask myself is why have you got someone in your team who you do not regard as worth developing? The larger than life leader era is gone.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Thabo, Yes it does seem very limiting to draw such solid lines under leadership that so many opportunities for it are lost. I’m wondering perhaps if we are not yet good enough at expressing and using boundaries within which people can feel free to create and lead. You have given me something more to think about here!
      Thank you for that and for your kind words.

  4. Pingback: Choosing to Lead and Two Simple Truths | digitalNow |

  5. Pingback: Blogs I Like: Gwyn Teatro’s You’re Not the Boss of Me » Wally Bock's Zero Draft

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