Leadership can be a complicated thing. But there are some simple truths about it that can help us cut through all of the, ahem, BS that so often clings to it. This post, from November 2011, raises just two of them. What would you add?
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 our own potential to lead would do well to rouse ourselves. 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.
That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?