The Leadership Delima: A Personal Story
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To Lead or Not to Lead
Do you sometimes question what is exceptional leadership? Do you seek out great leaders? Is there a difference between leadership and charisma? What is a level five leader? What leadership style do you admire or posses? Are you a leader or a follower? Are you a born or created leader? What is the difference between management and leadership? Do you care about leadership? How do the best leaders lead? How does a leader go from good to great? How does a leader maintain an open and honest style of leadership? How do great leaders sustain longevity and effectiveness?
Here are some of the books that can shed some light on some of the above questions on leadership:Bringing out the Best in People: Measure of a Leader by Aubrey and James Daniels; Good To Great by Jim Collins; Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras; How the Best Leaders Lead by Brian Tracey; Leadership and Self Deception: Staying outside the box by Abringer Institute; The One thing you need to know by Marcus Buckingham; The Law of Success by Napolean Hill.
Why should one care about such matters as leadership and management? The answer to this question differs depending on your experiences with leadership and how you define leadersip. According to BusinessDictionary.com, leadership in an organizational role involves (1) establishing a clear vision, (2) sharing (communicating) that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, (3) providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision, and (4) coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members or stakeholders.
Napolean Hill defines the attributes of a leader as one who has unwavering courage, self control, a keen sense of justice, definiteness of decision, definiteness of plans, the habit of doing more than is paid for, a pleasing personality, sympathy and understanding, mastery of details, willingness to take full responsibility and cooperation.
Brian Tracy argues that a leader is made not born. He posits that to be a leader one has to think like one and practise the following seven qualities:vision, courage, integrity, humility,foresight, focus and cooperation.
Jim Collins defines leadership as a hierarchy of five levels: level 1: highly capable individual, level 2: Contributing Team Member; Level 3: Competent Manager; Level 4: Effective Leader and Level 5 Executive. Jim Collins in Good to Great defines level five executive as the highest form of leadership of which humility and professional will are the defining characteristics.
The Abringer Institute states that self awareness is a perquisite to great leadership. They argue that we can easily deceive ourselves by thinking that we are doing the right things for the right reasons. They posit that self deception (being in the box) undermines leadership, relationships and organizational achievement.
Most of the writers on leadership that I've read seem to be in-sync that leadership is about fairness, integrity, honesty, competence and humility. These are not the qualities that I've seen in some people who are held in high esteem as leaders, especially in the workplace and in politics. You do not have to look too hard to find the politian who has compromised his/her office due to poor leadership, lacking integrity and honesty. It would seem that to be a recognized leader in some circumstances, you have to posses the opposite qualities of a great leader, at least that's my perception.
While I have had the pleasure to work with some great leaders, I've also worked with persons in leadership positions who were extremely demanding, very aggressive to the point of being impolite and rude, over-confident to the point of arrogance, not respectful of others or their point of views, manipulated most situations for their own interests, generated fear and competition in others and lacked vision and the big picture. Unfortunately poor leaders seem to be the norm as opposed to good or great leadership in many workplaces.
So how do these pathetic leaders influence and impact the team? They foster low morale, low productivity and create an environment of fear and compliance. Staff turnover is usually very high with such leadership and those who do not quit are more likely to be absent from work due to stress. The result is low productivity and a culture of fear and mediocrity. Mediocrity because team members are afraid to take chances for fear of the reprisals; they do not want to out-shine the leader or they want to remain in good favour with them. There is no growth only stagnation and apathy. In many cases team members after tolerating such poor leadership, will suddenly realize that they've had enough and then the breaking point. Usually this breaking point culminates with someone being fired and all traces of them erased as if they never existed; even after spending decades with a company. Even in a social setting, I've witnessed a team member who is recounting a humorous situation from the past, becoming flushed and exhibiting the deer in the headlight look as they scrambled to change the names of the people involved in their tale. They were afraid that they would be ostracized for mentioning the name of a past employee who was fired.
Is it any wonder that most people are wary of people who call themselves leaders? Even though I have been in several leadership positions in my career and personal life, I became tired of encountering fast-talking, no integrity leadership which rendered me disillusioned. I began to second guess myself and wondered if I am meant to lead. I also became indifferent to leadership; choosing to take a less assertive role in some circumstances. After reading about leadership qualities and reflecting on my personal experiences, I have realized that the best leaders that I've encountered where the ones who treated people as human beings, not pawns or tools to accomplish tasks to achieve organizational goals, but as people with inalienable rights like everyone else. I realize that I respect leaders who adhere to "the golden rule" - treat others as you would like to be treated. I have also realized that we are all leaders in some form or the other.
Leadership in the Home: Whether you're a leader in the home, the workplace, school, recreation or in the religious sphere, the potential to become great is a reality. Brain Tracey sums up the qualities of a leader as one who has vision, courage, integrity, humility,foresight, focus and cooperation. In the home setting, parents are usually considered the leaders but children can be active leaders as well.
First as a leader in the home, you set the vision of how the family will operate. What are the family values? How decisions are made? How responsibilities are shared?
Secondly to show leadership in the home you must have courage. It takes courage to make difficult decisions regarding discipline and ensuring that the vision is maintained or re-evaluated and changed. It also take courage for a leader to admit that he/she may have made an inappropriate decision or taken an inappropriate action.
Thirdly, integrity is the lynch pin that will hold the unit together. It means that each person is open and honest with each other and that there is safety in doing so.
Fourth, humility is essential when leading your family. Parents do not always have the correct answers. It may be somewhat humbling to admit to your teenager that you do not understand something, but he/she will respect you for admitting your shortcoming and you will have demonstrated that it's ok not to know everything. You are showing that we are in a constant state of learning and growing. Also, parents should apologize to each other and their children when it is warranted.
Fifth, foresight is essential to lead a family. You have to be able to see the train approaching and prepare to get out of the way. For instance, as leaders of your family you plan ahead for your children's education, you identify their potentials and you seek out ways to encourage and foster those skills. You are preparing them to take charge of their life and future in dynamic ways, that require much foresight and planning.
Sixth, with so many distractions and influences on the family, in order to become great example of leaders to our children we have to show focus. We have to be able to stay on target and not appear to be arbitrarily making decisions. We have to show that even though there are many alternatives, they need to bear in mind their vision for their life and stay on track. This does not mean that they put blinders on or that they might not have to take a detour, but staying true to themselves will help them to stay focus in light of distractions.
Finally as a family cooperation is important. Even though we cherish our individualism, we are dependent on each other in the family unit as well as the larger society. Cooperation means that we acknowledge our needs and incorporate them with the needs of others in order to achieve what is mutually beneficial. I hope it is clear that we can all be leaders in our own way.
To Lead or Not to Lead: The Workplace to come some time in the future.
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