March 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm #154939
It seems like everybody is an expert in leadership these days. It’s easy to read the leadership book du jour, but implementing and leading effectively is a lot more than just opening a book.
A while back Govloop had a great discussion on what “Leadership Is…“. During a recent interview with NASA CIO Linda Cureton as part of our new daily podcast, she gave what I think is a pretty darn good definition of leadership:
Really, that’s what leadership is: creating a paradigm shift within people where their personal mission becomes the organization’s mission.
Linda continues on in the interview, saying that leadership in innately hard. The above definition is certainly not easy and that’s why not everybody is cut out to be a leader.
Leadership Is Hard – Linda Cureton Interview Excerpt 2 by cdorobek
March 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm #154957
Love those quotes and so true. Plus true leadership is messy when you see it in action – it’s not some magical speech in a locker room
March 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm #154955
A while back, I observed that leadership seemed to be getting people to do something they didn’t want to do and making them think it was their idea to begin with. But Linda’s definition is probably more comprehensive and certainly less cynical. Thanks for sharing!
March 6, 2012 at 2:31 pm #154953
I love the bit about personal and organizational mission alignment, but the first definition seems overly manipulative for some reason. Still could be true, I’m not suggesting it’s not, but it seems like focusing on mission alignment is a more positive, empowering spin on it.
March 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm #154951
On that second cut – she says “you’ve got to take a lot of hits” as a leader. It’s a double-edged sword for managers whose temperament is, for instance, Extrovert and Feeling on the Myers-Briggs or when a person’s TKI mode is “Collaborating.” Those folks tend to be wired to circumnavigate conflict.
My gut tells me that the best leaders are able to be more detached from the relational element in order to make better, more objective decisions and roll with the punches / shake off the hits more easily. Full disclosure: This is something I’m working on.
March 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm #154949
That may be true, but I want a leader who thinks twice about conflict. A leader should dig into a large box of creative thinking skills and evaluate alternatives. Can resolution be found without discouraging the staff? If not, then proceed in the manner that is best for the organization.
March 10, 2012 at 5:25 am #154947
Anyone who stands up braves the risk of being shot at. Human nature, I suppose. Maybe this is a natural part of the strengthening process.
Detachment, however, isn’t healthy. Our best leaders care deeply. We may condition ourselves to make more objective decisions, or make decisions that benefit the many over the few, but I doubt that detachment = better.
Even when making life/death decisions, compassion and passion play an important role. The day we can’t feel our emotions anymore is probably a good day to hang up the leadership gig.
Rolling with the punches / shaking off the hits is a function of allowing yourself and others to be human. None of us are perfect or above criticism. People “hit” for a lot of reasons – including fear, pain, and personal history that you had nothing to do with creating. Realizing that most “hits” are not personal helps.
March 10, 2012 at 5:41 am #154945
I don’t want to be too critical without the context, but I’m not relating to the “Getting people to do something they don’t want to and making them feel good about it” idea. This sounds like a definition for manipulation – a good con. I can’t argue there isn’t an element of manipulation in the craft of leading people. Sun Tsu wrote about this in detail thousands of years ago.
I can argue that there is much more to it. Do people work for leaders or do leaders work for people?
I’m in the camp that believes leaders work for people. Leaders have responsibility to the people they lead.
Good leaders tap into and draw from the will of the people. Often, we just need to provide a few missing ingredients and people will lead themselves: a vision of where they are going, confidence, praise, an occasional helping hand…
Plants need soil, sunshine, water and carbon dioxide to thrive. They want to thrive. We get them what they need and they grow. Leaders of people often need to do the same for the people they lead.
April 4, 2012 at 3:11 pm #154943
Excellent comments, David and Marc. Management is about empowering the team for the mission.
April 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm #154941
I would suggest that leadership is not so much ” getting people to do something they don’t want to do,” but rather getting people to face difficult realities. In this context leadership is more of a service than a role.
Organizations, like most human systems, are engines of social replication. The create predictablity and sustainability by resisting disruptive changes. Real leadership (which can come from anyone in the organization) provokes and inspires people and factions within the organization to address difficult challenges in order to achieve a greater collective aspiration. this requires getting people to see that greater aspiration, question their own values and habits, and accept the necessary losses (self-esteem, sense of competence, and security), critical to moving forward.
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