This past week I attended the Art of Leadership conference in Vancouver. Among the five speakers was Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York City during the 9/11 attacks, and Time’s 2001 Person of the year. Early in his speech he said something that resonated with me. He told the story of when he was starting out in law and was clerking for Federal Court Judge MacMahon. All judges have one thing in common, MacMahon used to say, they were appointed by either Democrats or Republicans. It really had nothing to do with whether they were good or bad lawyers, it was strictly political. However once those judges were in their roles many started to believe they got there by an act of God. Leaders of all types, Giuliani said, need to be aware of this trap, running the risk of thinking that they got to where they were by divine intervention. That they (leaders) need to be aware of their weakness and how to balance them.
This got me thinking about my own leadership journey and how I got to where I am today and why. A number of years ago I was in a role where I had become the “golden boy”. Everything was working for me, the region I was managing was the number one region three years in a row, staff turnover was nonexistent, people throughout the organization were asking how I had done it, I had no idea, it had seemed to just happen. Around the same time I was given a book by Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (Hyperion). It changed my life. The message in Marshall’s book impacted me so much that I flew across the country to Boston to participate in a two day workshop he was presenting. If what I had been doing was not a ticket to moving forward, fine, but wouldn’t it be good first to know what I had been doing to get where I was? And if so, could I then help others find the same success? I decided that I needed to find out, and so the journey began. After some research I decided to enroll in the Masters of Arts in Leadership (MAL) program at Royal Roads University in Victoria, BC.
I can state that I found what I was looking for. That is a pretty bold statement, but it’s true. The model I discovered that I had unconsciously used fit perfectly with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s The Leadership Challenge (Jossey-Bass). I now had language to put around my “leadership style”, and because I had, I could now use it to explain, coach and help others to find the same success I had found. Kouzes and Posner’s “Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership” – Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable others to Act and Encourage the Heart – have been found, through over 32 years of research to explain how great leaders get things done. For me it was an epiphany. If you are also in a place of searching, I recommend you read this book, or better still participate in the two day Leadership Challenge workshop that can lead you through the model in detail. It may speak to you like it did to me. To find a workshop near you, google “public workshops leadership challenge”.