Archive for July, 2010

What is this thing called leadership

Posted on July 6, 2010. Filed under: Leadership and teams | Tags: |

Well, the old question used to be “what is this thing called love” and it gave us many different ways to add or place emphasis which then completely changed the interpretation of the question.

Why not take the same approach to leadership – just what is it?

I’ve been working with some groups lately on the concept of followership, leadership and teamwork. I’ve previously mentioned Ira Challeff’s book The Courageous Followeer and believe it sets some good themes and views about active followership and the contribution each of us as individuals is able to make in a team context.

And it set me thinking about leadership in a similar way: does leadership have to come from a formal role? does it have to be consistently sourced from one person? can it happen outside the workplace? is it always linked to a crisis or problem?

My responses in order are; No, No, Yes, No (although a crisis situation does call for our attention)

Having just read ‘On The Edge” by Richard Hammond from Top Gear (I know!!) about his (and his family’s) journey and recovery from his jet car crash I’ve been thinking about leadership in yet another context. Certainly in Richard’s case his wife stepped up and took a leadership role in terms of decision making, protecting him and their family and collaborating on a strategic level. His oldest daughter also seemed to demonstrate what we would usually associate with leadership in terms of putting her own emotions aside while visiting her Dad to help with his recovery.

Don’t we expect/ask leaders to put the team an/or the organisation first? Isn’t that what this child did for her sick father – even if only temporarily?

So why is leadership so often corralled into the workplace? Is it because we have other boundaries there too and it seems to fit? Or is it because some feel the burden of leadership and may feel additional pressure to perform or be a role model every minute of every day?

We only have to look at our elite sports people and others in the public eye to know how readily success or influence in one area of  life can and does readily transfer across into others. I admit to not craving celebrity as I’d hate to have pictures in magazines of me without makeup or in scruffy clothes ready to be contrasted with the glamour of eveing wear and full makeup that is usually associated with functions and major events.

Can leadership be a small thing too? Why is leadership made to be a large and often heavy weight – would it not be better to have it imagined like a light, silk wrap or cape that drapes softly across one’s shoulders. Providing a small amount of warmth and comfort whilst requiring careful handling to keep it free of snags or damage?

Different views on leadership are as varied as we are as individuals.

My take on this thing called leadership? I believe it is a way of being and behaving. Something that links to our purpose and self quite deeply and personally. And a thing that is linked to me doing and being the best that I can be at that particular moment.

This morning I cared for my Mum while she had multiple blood tests – not pleasant for a lady afraid of needles. And I was casually dressed with very little make up when I bumped into a contact through work. He may have done a double take – my belief is that i was doing the best I could to be a leader or supporter of my Mum in those hours and so I am still the same professional and leader he has met in other contexts.

Perhaps only time will tell.

Perhaps I’m right and perhaps I’m not?

I’d welcome thoughts and comments.

Have a great day.


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