So many people think about leadership as a solitary effort that we often loose sight of the importance and need for the engagement of a variety of people in the leadership process. Leadership implies relationship by denoting the presence of both leader and follower. While these terms have become pejorative, the essence behind the concept is that a symbiotic relationship among those with diverse skills is necessary to achieve goals. A more enlightened definition of leadership therefore allows various people at different times to step into the “leadership” role and for leaders to know when their skills are best utilized as a “follower.”
We see the pitfalls of this thinking of leadership as a solitary endeavor everyday in our government. The President or a governor makes a decision; legislative leaders send out a proposal, envoys from one leader communicate an agenda to everyone else. This one-off modus operandi only allows for sparring to take place as one side advances and the other responds. Real solutions cannot be created under such circumstances and the opportunity for creativity and real leadership are nonexistent.
Traditionally leadership has inferred that the goal is to become the person “in charge,” because we have been taught that if you are not in charge you don’t have any power. As we observe the struggles currently taking place in our nation’s capital, does having power mean anything if you are not addressing the issues at hand. The focus on the maintaining of power warps any sense of legitimate action because you can’t move forward together if you are focused on dominating the other. As the unattributed quote says, it is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit—and which one of our current elected officials are more concerned with creating solutions than in maintaining power?
Making progress toward achieving a goal is an essential component of effective leadership. No man is an island and no goal is accomplished alone. Teamwork is vital to success and the first step in creating effective teams is each participant’s leadership in the process of change.
When you bring a new understanding of leadership to the group dynamic things begin to shift immediately. People have been socialized to stake out their territory, look out for their turf and to create fiefdoms of power all in the pursuit of “exercising their leadership.” Unfortunately, this approach only creates animosity, discomfort and chaos among the group. How many examples can you think of where a noble goal was left unmet, simply because the team members were unable to get past their tainted understanding of leadership and created such havoc that not only was nothing accomplished, team members were left feeling worse than before the process started.
By making the Leadership Choice as the process begins, a leader has taken the first and most important step by offering a new paradigm for how the group works together. Through the identification of the various talents and skills around the table and the willingness to allow those with the necessary tools to lead at the appropriate time, the leader unleashes the power of the team and the results will astound everyone!
Those who reach positions of leadership under the “old” system often find the challenge of leading in a “new” way difficult. Not because those who are on the team want to keep the old power system in tact, rather it is a personal demon that says “I made it in the old way by putting my time in and doing what it took to rise in the ranks. I had to pay the price, why not require the same thing of those I am now “leading?” Hence the reason things take so long to change, because if you have become a part of the system that has provided you power, why should you change it?
That is why it is so important for people to begin leading in a different way now. Old habits die-hard and the longer one waits to create change the more difficult it becomes. Learning to lead is a lifelong pursuit and doing it in a way that will ultimately serve the greater good first and the individual as a part of that success is the only path that ensures effective leadership will truly take hold. Simply saying you want to lead differently, but are going to do it the “old” way to get into a position of power won’t work. Leading and being the best of who you are in every moment is the way to get there.