Archives for December 2012

The Nebulous Nature of Leadership

By M. Duvernet

Leadership has many faces, from teachers, to organizational executives, to the President of the United States, and we look up to our leaders for various reasons. One big reason is to be a part of something larger than ourselves, to find meaning and purpose within the various communities of practice; whatever the practice might be. In fact, based on some recent research by the statistical scientists at Gallup Poll, it was discovered that the likelihood of everyone getting more than one opportunity to lead during their lifetime has a 97% chance; an enormous stochastic percentage. So, why is it that it seems that fewer get a chance to lead?

It is the nebulous nature of leadership. When it comes to the definition of leadership, one could call Dorothy a leader as she headed down the yellow brick road. Meeting more characters as she went and inviting them on her journey to the Land of Oz. She led them on a mission of discovery that was deeply rooted in their sense of self. Along the way each character was put into a situation that challenged them to grow. How did Dorothy gather these followers? It was mostly due to the needs of each character; Dorothy inspired them with hope that they might find a solution to their needs at the end of the yellow brick road in the Land of Oz.

This same story has been told in many different ways since the beginning of time. What people look for in a leader depends upon their own needs. Communities of practice can focus on many different domains; religion, industry, products, services, professions, and more. According to a variety of references, academic publications and Forbes articles concerning this topic, there are three basic qualities that are inherent to good leadership.

The three basic qualities inherent to leadership are:

1)      Continual commitment to becoming more competent
2)      Comprehensive understanding of team building, and ways to maximize teams
3)      Clear understanding around the needs of the followers

These qualities cover a very board range of leaders. All of whom have one thing in common, that is the pursuit of something; happiness, success, freedom, and more. Everyone wants something, largely to feel fulfilled in some way. Part of this puzzle is acknowledging our own abilities and utilizing them to face both the personal and professional challenges presented to us.

Do you recognize your strengths and use them every day?

Upon getting to Oz, what did all the characters learn? Dorothy and her friends learned that they had the ability within themselves from the very start; they just needed a situation to challenge them and someone else to recognize the strengths they already possessed. The Wizard of Oz recognized the strengths of the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodsman and the Empty-headed Scarecrow and presented them with awards to commemorate their accomplishments – which increased their confidence and inspired them to change their perspective of themselves.

One thing is certain, that leadership at any level is a challenge that requires different kinds of preparation. To that point, here are seven simple insights that are fundamental to leadership.

1)      To be able to inspire, one must know how to motivate
2)      To be able to communicate, one must know the message and the audience
3)      To be able to connect on various levels, one must practice civility
4)      To be perceived as fair, one must be open minded
5)      To be able to delegate, one must know how to enable and empower others
6)      To be appreciated, one must find ways to be grateful
7)      To understand the needs of others, one must listen, listen, listen

Many of these insights are appropriate to maintaining any sort of relationship, whether it concerns friends, family, co-workers, management, or even the general public. Leadership can sometimes even be inconspicuous to its host, as Dorothy never called herself a leader, her only wish was to find her way back home. Yet, she would never have gotten caught up in that tornado if she had not run away from home to save her little dog Toto. Dorothy was compelled to make a choice about what was most important to her.

Likewise, in the rest of the story entitled “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (published in 1900), the author; L. Frank Baum, masterfully chose three areas where the other three characters have opportunities to grow. The lion was all about the courage to believe in something and the ability to promote and honor the cause, the woodsman was tired of being cold as metal and only wanted to have a heart and be able to empathize, and the scarecrow was all about becoming knowledgeable; where he thought he had nothing but a head full of straw, he came to realize that he actually knew something. These are the same sort of desires felt by many, as it is a shared desire to make some impact on the world, to contribute in some way and feel some measure of achievement. This desire is also what drives us to lead in whatever capacity possible depending on the opportunity presented.

These possibilities are endless, and the opportunities are everywhere. It is all about the pursuit of something worthwhile; whether it is happiness, excellence, truth, courage, knowledge, or compassion, whatever it is… it is all about attaining it.

So, if leadership is all about the pursuit of happiness, then the other side of the coin must be apathy; or in the words of Shakespeare “to be, or not to be, that is the question.” Of course, happiness means different things to different people. Different perspectives foster different values. Yet, where it may seem that good leaders are hard to find, in reality they are hiding among us. For anonymity has its benefits, just like James Bond might convey, sometimes to be recognized for your abilities can work against you. Many leaders just want to go about doing good things to make sure that good things happen, they take on another persona to maintain privacy, and as masked superheroes they get no recognition or glory. So, when it comes to realizing the significance of that whooping 97% percentile, look around and know that you are surrounded by many natural born leaders.