Friday, June 25, 2010

How Much Do You Believe in Leadership?

How much does leadership matter to you? Sure, we are surrounded by a plethora of managers and supervisors yet how many of them exhibit and express their leadership effectively?

Leadership may be too easy a thing to discard because cynicism and skepticism permeates it. When our leadership disappoints us through their failed promises, inaction and indecisiveness it makes us question our faith in them.

Most leaders plunge into their role as part of ascending to a higher position. However few are thoroughly prepared for their journey into leadership; much of it is by mimicry (of their manager), and trial and error. Without adequate mental models, the neophyte or lost leader may not know how to navigate and orientate themselves through their teams. In the worst cases, the leader loses whatever is left of their credibility as a leader. In the hopeful cases, the leader meanders through his career relying on his charismatic power, authoritative power and expert power. Thus, a flamboyant personality brimming with education and backed by strong references can help an incompetent leader stay buoyant through the good times. In tough business and financial times, the leader cuts away the troublemakers, the doubtful and the antagonistic.

Occasionally, and sporadically a leader emerges who breaks all the rules of convention. He delivers his leadership with decisiveness, diligence and distinction. He builds close relationships with respect, recognition and reassurance. He can work his influence across a wide reach of Generation X and Y, as well as the baby-boomers.

Leadership is about influence. How you influence others at work and at play matters. Leaders guide followers; without followers the leader is hopeless and helpless. That’s the systemic connection: leader and follower. When Seth Godin wrote about Tribes, he was referring to followers who are willing to rally together for a shared cause, and support it. A cause is an abstract thing, yet we can sustain it through our collective beliefs and values.

There are many models of leadership in business, entertainment, sports, education and community. Seize the opportunity to model excellent leaders. They need not be celebrities and entrepreneurs written up in the latest management top-10 bestselling list. Leaders are ubiquitous, if we know where to seek them and be aware and alert to identify them. The wisdom of leaders is found in quotations, documentaries, film and anecdotes. Be an A-student: research exhaustively and be assiduous in your study. Build you tacit knowledge and tacit wisdom. Think, do, act, learn and apply.

So, is the question: Where do we find the best leader? Perhaps the better question would be: how much do you believe in your leadership?

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