Friday, March 29, 2013

Time for a New Approach to Leadership - Part II

Andy Warhol once said, “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” This is especially true in leadership. We cannot afford to wait for times to change and instead have to be the change we want and expect. Leadership is personal and therefore any change we seek must first start with us.

In a recent post, I proposed five fresh ways to think about leadership development. This new dialogue is intended to explore how we think about leadership and the language we use to describe leadership. Again, my attempt is not to abandon what we know to be excellent leadership traits, instead I seek a continuing conversation, an exploration into what leadership can and should be in our current environment. What follows is the continuation of this dialogue.

Passion. Leadership often fosters in us an intense emotion or enthusiasm for the work we do. This is revealed in the passion we have for people, for living and for doing what is right.  Manifest in this passion is empathy and positive thinking; an ability to accomplish the task set before us. Nelson Mandela, someone who understands what is required of passionate leaders,
Stated, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” There is no substitute for the passion we have for leadership.

Talent. People will follow leaders they believe have the talent to lead them. The talent you posses and the respect others have for it can be a powerful leadership tool. But as John Wooden warned, “Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” As we increase our knowledge base, we too can increase our talent. Experience, opportunity, and a little hard work can create a talented leader… but we must be careful to always remember the leadership is about others, not ourselves.

Heart. Leadership is about fostering relationships and developing others. Heart is what allows us to give great meaning to this work. Heart is leading through emotional intelligence and helps to define who we are as leaders. As Christina Baldwin states, “To work in the world lovingly means that we are defining what we will be for, rather than reacting to what we are against.” Our actions are dictated by the beliefs of our head and our heart. But heart is a necessary leadership skill that is central to everything we do as leaders.

Tempo. In music, tempo is measured in beats per minute. Too often leadership is a label bestowed on those who get things done quickly and efficiently. But a more contemporary concept is the idea of quality outcomes. Our beats per minute are now measured in the energetic quality of our work instead of the speed with which we get it done. Manolo Blahnik offers some unintended advice, “People walk differently in high heels. Your body sways to a different kind of tempo.” For leaders, this means being dynamic and agile while focusing on quality.

Legacy Thinking. Vision has always been an important leadership skill and one that most experts would agree is critical to leadership success. By nature, vision is always thinking about some future state. Legacy thinking moves us beyond vision to considering how our actions impact this future state. Henry R. Luce, founder of the Time-Life Magazine empire, once said that leadership “is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight.” The legacy we will leave as a leader begins with our actions today.

Our new look at old leadership is now updated with five additional contemporary ideas. While leadership is certainly more complex than the simple labels applied here, the idea that these skills are observable, and therefore may be modeled by others, is important. There are many more to share over the next several months as this dialogue continues.

I would love to hear how you are thinking about leadership differently.

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