I’ve been thinking quite a bit about leadership. I, like most people, have areas of my life where I consider myself to be a leader and other areas where I am very much the sheep at the back of the queue merrily trotting behind the others. I think that is quite healthy, stopping us from becoming too self-important. You have to be a pompous person indeed to never be led by anyone else. It always makes me smile when you meet someone who is a very stern ‘boss’ at work and then you meet their two year old who has them entirely subjected to their will. We all have our Everest!
Recently I’ve encountered a number of very effective leaders with very different styles. In many cases they have been successful where I thought that kind of style would be like walking in to a lion’s den dressed in the Lady Gaga meat dress. But alas, Daniel-like, they have survived. Some have even has the lions rolling over on their backs to have their bellies tickled. As these leaders are so different, I wonder whether good leadership is about the leader being true to who they are and so super effective at it or if it’s about them being what the context needs them to be and them understanding that? What do you think? If people need tough words do you get tough? If they need a bit of TLC do you become fluffy and obliging? I suppose that is part of it, reading the dynamics of the group you find yourself in. That idea also makes some sense to me as skills and personality are always evolving.
I’ve worked with leaders who are very directional, and often very successful as a result. One person’s view point is easier to reach than a group consensus but then will people really follow if they aren’t heard? If their presence in the team is incidental and of no real relevance to the leader’s vision of moving a group or organisation forwards? In my experience you can lose heart with that kind of leader who doesn’t value you as an individual. You then start to think of yourself first just as they are doing and the team dynamic quickly breaks down.
One thing I can certainly pin down as an essential of leadership, and a very interesting one at that, is character. Because a good leader, after all, is surely just someone that people want to follow. They are a person that you see something in, something you want and value.There are many leaders who use their power or authority over people to make them do as they want. They are managers rather than leaders I suppose. Are the results of that kind of leadership permanent or just temporary? To use a modern day analogy, it’s the boss who when their back is turned the staff are all on Facebook. I do believe that great leaders are those who inspire and for that reason it has to be about the heart and insight both for their cause and for the people they lead.