So what does leadership look like in this new century? Is leadership a natural born gift or is it one that every one of us has locked away inside ready for the right combination of knowledge to unlock it?
Leadership is a complex topic. Everyone has their own opinion of ‘what makes a good leader’ and ‘what a leader should be doing’, including me. Many leaders in business today exist at what I term Leadership 101, The Emergence Leader. Leadership 101 is about your everyday inspiration, leading, meeting goals and challenges, learning about our own style of leadership.
Leadership 101 is leadership at the basic level. The emerging leader has enough charm, wit, and commitment to get people to do things for the organization, and is relatively successful. Most anyone can lead or learn to lead at this level.
Leadership 101 leaders are concerned with:
1. Am I doing this right or wrong? How can I achieve more of the right things, and avoid doing the wrong thing at all cost?
2. What will people think of me? Therefore I have to be appropriate and do everything the right way.
3. When will I be promoted to the next level? After all that is the whole purpose to leading, so that one can advance and keep moving up the ladder.
4. How do I become the best? I must protect my turf, be the best and hold on to my position. Success is defined by what others think of me.
5. What is my leadership style? At this stage a leader (hopefully) is preoccupied with self discovery and teaching oneself to lead.
6. My focus is how to handle situation most efficiently and effectively. It is the “get in and get out” approach to situations. The leader wants to put in the least amount of effort, experience the least amount of residue, and hope for the most favorable impact.
I do not mean to make light of this level of leadership. In fact to achieve this level of leadership, one is doing quite well. One is effective, earning recognition, and is aggressively focusing on moving upward. At this level of leadership, success is driven by external pressure and interpretations. The need to know “if I am doing it right or wrong” is very compelling and consuming.
This need to be approved as a leader starts at an early age during the relationships that children have with their parents. They are looking for affirmations that they are doing well and that their parents are pleased with them. As we progress through school, these affirmations are passed on to our teachers and professors. We want “good grades” and praise from our teachers. It is the way that we evaluate what we are doing externally. At this point we do not trust our own instincts and we do not know our own wisdom.
As we move into the world and are in the position of leadership, we often lack the skills to internalize leadership. We are still looking for external affirmation that we are doing well. We do not get beyond checking in with others to evaluate and give us confirmation that we are doing well. Our leadership abilities lie in the hands of others, rather than in our own hands where it belongs.
There is a step beyond this Leadership 101 which I have termed Leadership 2010. This is cutting our virtual umbilical cord and making our way as global leaders in the world without fear and with confidence. In my next article I will discuss Leadership 2010 and how this level of leadership is needed to respond appropriately to our increasingly complex world.