As I continue to reflect on the topic of Leadership I am drawn again to the idea of what Leadership is at its core and how this relates to any and all of us. There is a misconception that to be a leader you need a title such as manager, director or chief-something. This is taking a very narrow view of leadership. Leadership is and can be found in all of us.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams
Back in December of 2014 I wrote a blog post on my own struggle around this subject. I subtitled it The Dawning of a New Perspective because it was a personal reflection on what it meant to be a “leader” as someone who had no discernible “followers”. The fundamental question was this: Can you be a leader without followers? The flaw in that question is that at some point in time, we all take a leadership role at some level, and at that point, we do have followers. The other flaw is that it assumes you must be born a leader. More and more research and work done by people like Barry Posner, Jim Kouzes and Marshall Goldsmith is pointing to the fact that you can learn leadership skills and become a great leader through experience and learning. You don’t have to be born with particular traits to become a great leader.
In my post of December 2014, I noted that my definition of leadership was expanding, not changing, and seventeen months later I can state that it continues to evolve. In that post I wrote six points to express that expanding view of leadership:
- If you really believe that what you have to offer has value, you are showing leadership by being a resource to others.
- You can provide leadership through your consulting or coaching practice (or anything else for that matter) by Modeling the Way in what you are doing (Kouzes and Posner).
- If “Leadership is doing things right” (Drucker) then do whatever you are doing with consistency and authenticity.
- Enable and encourage others’ leadership by demonstrating your own.
- Figure out what you are passionate about and then act on it. Find a way to use that passion constructively. If you don’t know what you are passionate about, find a coach to help you.
- Find validity in what you are doing. Listen to what others are saying. Look for the small wins — they add up quickly.
These still hold true. However, I will add that you must be mindful of where you are in the present. Stop for a moment and reflect on what you are doing right now. My guess it is something to do with leadership. You are providing a service to someone or something that requires you to be proactive. You have been asked to run a project or program for your school, a club, religious organization, business group, community, neighbourhood, to help a friend in need, to donate your time to a cause… I could keep going, but I think you get my point. (If you want to read an about an example of this, read https://johnkwhitehead.ca/leader/)
All of the above examples require you to be a leader of some sort. Where do you fit and how are you working towards becoming a better leader?
John Whitehead, coaches’ individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.
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