Debunking the ‘fat word’ of ‘leadership’ – what’s your take?
Whenever the word leadership is used I find that most of us engage in a conversation feeling like we have a full handle on what we all mean by leadership. It’s one of those words that I call ‘fat’ – full of so much that in the end it risks becoming meaningless.
And within organisations too the word is bandied around without clarification or challenge. It’s used interchangeably with management, again without much regard for the essential differences between these two practices. It’s also generally used to denote seniority – the people at the top of an organisation, though again, we all know that leadership can come from anywhere at any time and anybody.
All that said, it seems to me that we are increasingly looking for more leadership in our organisations. So how might we usefully define it for the present age?
For some that’s about a return to more directive leadership where the most senior people give clear direction about the way forward and thereby provide a level of reassurance which we can all follow and rely on. If that style of leadership were ever the right way to go, it is a really tough gig these days as so many leaders struggle with the complexity and uncertainty of our/their world. In this climate coming to definitive statements of direction that have any longevity is pretty hard to resolve. That said, having a clear conviction and connection with a sense of purpose will undoubtedly provide the North Star that many are seeking.
Others are increasingly looking for more courageous leadership – a practise of leadership where the most senior people are creating an environment and a climate where all voices are truly heard, where the people at the ‘top’ aren’t the only ones with answers, where the emphasis is in on collective problem solving, collaboration and a far more involving culture. Leveraging the sum of the parts if you will.
Then there’s the leadership where we place more focus on facilitating the inner power of the organisation – recognising that it’s key to tap into the heart of the organisation and its capabilities and release these in service of the common purpose. Many are calling this Teal leadership thanks to the work of Frederic Laloux. This increased consciousness and awareness of capabilities, within an organisation, that are more than the transactional skills and tasks requires a whole different mind-set about the role of leaders and indeed the skills and qualities that they need to deploy. Skills and qualities such as intuition, humility, deep listening, a commitment to diversity and unity…
Do you agree? What would you add?