Do You Know Your Philosophy of Leadership?
Perhaps the ultimate paradox about leadership is that it is both enormously complex and ridiculously simple
We all know it when we experience it. We can easily rattle off some leadership attributes and qualities. Yet describing one's own leadership philosophy requires that we take pause and assess ourselves. And that is not so easy.
I sum up my view of leadership in the acronym RESPECT:
A true leader accepts the responsibility that comes with the freedom to make decisions.
To me, leadership is about being responsible for the rest of what follows in RESPECT:
Leaders are responsible for enabling others to be all they can be. They create an environment for empowerment.
Leaders are responsible for looking at the big picture; for seeing the forest and the trees. Systems thinking is a must.
Leaders are responsible for getting things done. Big picture thinking must be balanced by pragmatically getting done what can be done today with an eye to tomorrow.
Leaders are responsible for understanding tomorrow. They envision a future with the help of those who will create it.
Leaders are responsible for their own technical, interpersonal and conceptual skills. They ensure they do what they are competent to do. But, leaders are not heroes. They cannot and should not do it all.
Leaders are responsible for truth. They are authentic. They 'walk the talk'. They see and acknowledge current reality and help others to see the truth.
The first rule of empowerment should be 'Get out of the way.' Too often bureaucracy is mistaken for leadership. Leaders work for their people and the leader's goal is to help their people accomplish their goals and to remove any barriers to goal achievement. Leadership has also been confused with 'having power' or 'taking control'. I believe that power grows when you share it. Paradoxically, the best way I know of ensuring controlled operations is to be sure all that can contribute do and do so to the best of their ability.
The Fifth Discipline (check out anything written by Peter Senge!) suggests the idea of leader as an organizational architect and as a designer. There is a need for conceptual thinking; seeing patterns and seeing relationships between the parts and the whole. Leaders cannot wear blinders. It is simply not part of the job description!
Leaders must be practical and must be concerned about actual practice, not just theory. I've been in many situations where our vision was clear but the methods to get there were untried. The only way to learn was to do. Leaders also have to ensure that there are small successes along the way. I come back to my earlier description of getting things done, not just any way that works but some way that works today with tomorrow clearly in mind. Leadership is about the balance of thinking and doing and that for me defines pragmatism.
To be a successful pragmatic leader, you must have a clear picture of tomorrow. At the very least this means necessary compromises in actions will be by design and not by default! Understanding tomorrow is more than the sum of all the projections for your industry, though those are necessary. Envisioning the future requires passion. It requires a belief in what can be as well as what will be. Most importantly, a vision cannot be determined by the leader alone. I don't believe that a leader can or should have all the answers. In our organizations we have many capable minds that should be part of the envisioning process for two reasons; the first a fundamental belief in inclusiveness, the second a pragmatic belief that the end product is better and easier to achieve. People buy into a vision they helped to create.
Leaders owe their organizations competence. Smart organizations partner with their people to develop competence but ultimately a person is responsible for their own development. There are three main competency areas:
Technical (sometimes called the hard skills) - business literacy, knowledge of the methods and procedures relevant to the job
Interpersonal (often called the soft skills) - knowledge of human behavior, ability to communicate and establish relationships
Conceptual (too often not even considered!) - systems thinking, problem solving, envisioning and idea generation
Competency ties back to empowerment as smart leaders develop competency in others. Our business environment has become far too complex for any person to know everything or be able to do everything. We need to work together as formal or informal teams to leverage and amplify our collective skills.
For me there are two important perspectives in reflecting on truth. Authenticity is one of them. This is about leaders being true to themselves and their values. I equate leadership to parenting when thinking of authenticity. Leaders are role models and what they do has far more impact and truth than what they say. True leaders have consistency in saying and doing. The other perspective on truth is a leader acknowledging current reality and helping others to see the truth of it. In today's environment of racing towards a vision, the starting gate must first be found. Current reality constantly changes so leaders must be vigilant in constant assessment and constantly challenging today's version of the truth.
There you have it - RESPECT!
I initially worked through my view of leadership over 10 years ago. I have come back to it often and find it helps during difficult situations whether that be major change at work, dealing with a struggling team member or a difficult client. It even helped me as a parent.
Do you know your philosophy of leadership and what guides your thinking as you lead others?
About the Author
Brenda Kerton is the principal consultant and owner of Capability Insights Consulting http://www.capabilityinsights.com Brenda has over 25 years of leadership, business and information technology experience. Her strengths are strategic analysis, change leadership and aligning business with IT. Her passion is the creation of business solutions that respect the people and the work and truly achieve the benefit opportunities.