I know of no one that has not found themselves in a position of leadership at some moment in their life. In grade school, when our starting catcher on the school baseball team broke his arm, I transitioned from outfield to behind the plate, as I was the first alternate tested in the catcher’s position that did not blink his eyes when the batter swung. Knowing absolutely nothing about the position, I checked out a library book on baseball basics (call me a nerd) and read that the catcher was the “leader of the team” as he was the only one that could see all activities on the field at the same time. I dutifully attempted to fulfill that role in my young and short baseball career.
Forty-plus years later with over thirty years in “management” and countless “leadership” experiences under my belt, my view of the ideal leadership model remains undefined or rather unresolved.
I suspect like many of you, my professional library is well stocked with books, articles, blogs, lectures, retreat notes and personal reflections on leadership with definitions, models and counsel as as plentiful and varied as the number of sources.
Given my background and experience in quality & continuous improvement, I am required to ask myself “what’s the problem that I am trying solve?” I know what I’m not trying solve; I am not trying to identify a single definition or model of leadership, nor to espouse the “right path” that one must take in order to become a “true leader”. First, nothing so profound would come from my fingertips and second, there are countless publications already telling you those answers.
The first part of the problem for me, and maybe it’s just me, is that individuals in leadership roles persist in lacking the awareness, focus and practice of the fundamental components of leadership.
I’ll accept that you may find this perspective bold and offensive. If so, then help me understand why so many leaders continue to expound huge amounts of energy, feeling chronically overburdened and frustrated in their roles? Why, as leaders, do we find ourselves either working through email and/or sitting through another meeting? Neither of which we derive much value from. Why are our staff engagement scores still not at the level that we think they should be? Why can’t we just get the information we need, when we need it? Why is the organization not steadily improving?
The second part of the problem, aka bold statement #2, is that we don’t know what fundamental components of leadership actually are. We think we do, but we’re wrong.
The third and final part of the problem is that the role of leadership is incredibly demanding. To make matters worse, it takes years of experience and failures, to develop into a great leader. And after all that, you never arrive! There are no leadership graduation certificates.
Sorry about that.
The good news is that components that make up great leadership are really quite simple, not easy, but pretty straightforward. Additionally, you’ll find that many of the components are also well documented through out my library and most likely yours as well.
Over the next few months, I’ll be posting up my reflections on what I consider the basic components to be. Look forward to your thoughts and reactions to this post and those to come…