Category Archives: Leadership
Leadership has developed in amazing ways over the many decades. Yet there still exists many common misconceptions, myths and contradictions that need to be clarified for all to understand.
True leadership is a balance, an ability to go between pushing and pulling, directing and advising, planning and encouraging. The balance between results and culture, attitudes and actions, common good and selfless actions is sometimes lost on the false belief that leaders today must adopt one type of pattern for behavior or another.
Leadership is not an either-or game. It’s very existence in the truest and most benevolent manifestation is mutually beneficial results for all involved. And over the years much of that has been lost.
The following are some traits with examples on both sides for the coin to challenge and re-calibrate our understanding of what leadership really is and should be.
- Leadership is both encouraging and boundary seeking. Allowing others to roam free but creating necessary boundaries to ensure safety, culture and focus for the greater good of the mission.
- Compassion and flexibility can also give way for strong action. Participatory leading and making others feel involved is needed, but when the time calls for a decisive action, the leader must know when to act accordingly.
- Trust and verify should be both for building up and checking, not for micromanaging. It should be a tool for development, not for measurement.
- Leaders don’t have to have certain experience, such as MBAs or PhDs. The teenage girl helping to change racial relations in her community or the young man at church doing a virtual fundraiser for those in impoverished countries are just as much leaders as those “experts” that write books which propagate leadership bias that favor those with certain education credentials.
- Leaders should be great at building bridges. But sometimes it’s necessary to draw a hard line that does not compromise principles. Especially when the other side is not playing nice.
- Leading is all about people, but it can be lonely at the top, particularly if you’re the only one leading for what is right.
- Some leaders are born and some leaders are made. All are the ones who took the time to identify the need and take the gifts they had at the time to meet that need.
- Leaders should never bully, but should never be surprised when they’re perceived as a bully for taking a stand for what is right.
- Leaders should be strong, but should never be afraid to admit mistakes and be vulnerable and human from time to time.
- Extroverted leaders build movements; introverted leaders build the structure necessary for those movements.
- Leaders should lead from the top and direct. Leaders should also roll up their sleeves and work alongside the team. At the end, leaders should be humble enough to get in the trenches and empowering enough to allow others to flourish, whatever the greatest good is.
- Leaders don’t need to know everything, but do need to know who and where to get the answers from. But they should always keep learning about their craft and industry regardless.
- Good leaders meet our wants. Great leaders meet our needs.
- Leaders are great with leading large groups and constant needs of people. And they are also covetous of their alone time to plan, ponder and refresh themselves.
- Leaders should know and understand what their people are going through. And people need to know that they most likely don’t understand all that their leader is going through.
- Accountability is necessary for groups to ensure they perform within certain parameters. Accountability is also a must to make sure leaders do likewise. Leaders should never hold anyone accountable without opening the door to be held to the same standards. And people should not hold their leaders to certain lofty standards that they themselves will not exhibit.
Leadership is a complex topic, but no more than the complexity of what makes us operate as humans. Common sense thinking of what leadership is coupled with the moderation of each side of the spectrum that it covers can help unlock what common misconceptions exist. Those misconceptions can both damage a leader’s credibility from the inside as well as our expectations from the outside towards those in certain roles.
Leadership is about balance. Sometimes you have to play to one side stronger based on the greater good. As long as you understand the many facets that leadership is composed of, the greater your ability to meet the needs in both challenging and prosperous times.
Some people need to be led by pushing them.
Not in a physical, forceful or micromanaging sense. But by pushing their thoughts to a higher level. Pushing their excuses aside to focus around opportunity. Helping to push them towards a big goal by casting a large vision before them.
Pushing possibilities in front of people is far easier than pulling.
Pulling means dragging them along to improve. Pulling them over to what they should be doing or learning. Getting them to pull on the rope to be a better team player.
Pulling requires far more effort than pushing.
Yet there are two types of people, two differing sets of employees.
Some can be led by a gentle push that starts them onto a self-sustaining path towards success.
Others need to be pulled – told – what to do. This is never sustainable. Once you pull them to step A, you’ll have to pull them to step B.
Seek for employees who you can push vision and possibility their way. They will take up far less time than those who are pulling on the rope against you.
We had high hopes for 2020 this past January.
There was no way any of us could have predicted the dramatic events for the first 5 months. Global pandemic. Racial murders. Rioting and looting. Worldwide economic turmoil.
This past week’s senseless murder of a black citizen at the hands of a white officer, and the resulting violent protests while not only grievous, can only teach us one truth.
You can only change the world by changing you.
Much of my writing has been geared towards inward directed leadership, with the realization that if you want to change the world, it starts with the person on the inside. Unless an individual determines in their heart to change, to respect and treat all people with value and to focus their efforts on changing the person on the inside, then no real lasting pivots can ever result.
It is up to you – and me – each of us individually to make the change we desire.
We can change the attitudes of our employees when we treat them right. We can change the course of a toxic leader when we leave their company.
We can change the perception of tribalism by showing respect and empathy to others who are different. We can make that other person feel comfortable by validating their voice and giving them value as a fellow human being.
We can vote for our elected leaders. We can shut off the biased news media and not feed into social media trolls. We can also find the truth in our news sources and determine to study what’s true.
We can respond in righteous anger and make positive change by doing no harm, or we can join in the needless destruction of property of those who are innocent because our anger justifies it.
We can choose not to farm out our individual responsibilities to someone else and take ownership for our lives.
We can work towards changing our lateral relationships towards others. We can also work towards changing our vertical relationship towards heaven.
But it has to start with you. I know because it starts with me. I can’t change you, and neither can you change me. But if we both show an example of change together we can multiply our efforts.
I saw two quotes on social media since George Floyd’s murder last week that unfortunately blame the problems in our world towards forces remote and larger than us. No disrespect to those that wrote them, but it gives a feeling of hopelessness and that the system is against us.
Society manifests what leadership tolerates.
The system is not broken it was built this way.
Great leaders, and great people, take responsibility for their world, so I’ve inverted these saying to reflect this thinking on how you can change the world around you.
Leadership tolerates what society manifests.
The system is not built this way it was broken.
The greatest changes in world history have not been from the top down, but common people choosing to change their response. And if we choose so, we can do the same.
Examine yourself and your motives. Closely. What makes you willingly disrespect and devalue another human being needs to change.
Change can only start at the top if leaders at the top change. Most of us are not at the top, but are closer to the foundation of the right type of change – respectful, thoughtful and mutually beneficial – that the world can build upon.
The greatest hope in our world is that we all have the ability to change. We simply must choose to do so. Even if it means sacrificing our selfish ambitions, status and possibly friends. All great change in ourselves is rewarded at some level far beyond what we gave up to attain it.
And it starts with you.