Updated: Mar 17
"Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not 'making friends and influencing people', that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations."
~Peter F. Drucker
Leadership, at it's core, is a relationship. In honor of Valentine's Day, today we discuss how to cultivate this important relationship in your life. Are you doing your part to fall in leadership?
Several years ago, I sat down with a new client and asked her what kind of goals she wanted to work toward in our sessions. Her first goal was to become a better leader. It seems reasonable. We associate good leadership with success: personal success, professional success, and organizational success. But as we parsed that apart, we realized that she wasn’t really interested in becoming a better leader. Like many, she wanted more authority, more autonomy, more power, and eventually more money. These are all reasonable goals, but they are not the same as being a leader.
Instead, I offered a different, and admittedly personal, view of the idea of leadership.
How to Leadership
Leadership starts from within. Through my years of experience in organizations, I have seen a lot of people in positions of authority who knew they were not leaders. Whether they lacked authority, expertise, training, or self confidence, they knew that they didn't have the ability to instill trust and confidence in their decision-making.
You are not perfect, and you never will be, but by admitting your imperfection, you can stop fearing it. Allow yourself to be vulnerable to those around you. Ask for help and allow them to step in. Admit you don't know and challenge yourself to find out. Model the attitude you want others to have and support them when they model you.
To fall in leadership, you must first believe that you are leadership-able. Do not fear that you aren't. Trust that you can and will be.
Who to Leadership
How often to we hear about people in positions of authority demand, manipulate, and cajole loyalty or "respect" out of others? If you have to force it, it's not real. You will not get them all.
When OD experts discuss change initiatives, the general rule of thumb is 10-80-10. Ten percent (10%) of your group is already on board with you even before you've begun, and they will never desert you. Eighty percent will listen to your arguments and make their decision. The last ten percent won't have any of it, no matter what. Think about that. Twenty percent of the time, your actions have nothing to do with how people perceive you, and you will almost never get everyone on board.
Instead of trying to be someone that caters to everyone, or someone who expects others to change to suit you, craft your style for responsive eighty percent who are listening. Thank the ten percent you support you (while remembering that you need to hear other opinions too). Let the ten percent that you can't make happy be unhappy until they don't want to be.
Forcing any kind of relationship without the other person's consent is a form of manipulation.
When to Leadership
How many dates does it take to find "the one"? How many jobs does it take to find "the one"? Not every position is going to be a leadership role. Not every person, group, or organization is designed for your style to be successful. And not over scenario will allow you to step into the decision-making seat.
There is a time and there is a place for your leadership. Give yourself the space and time to be open enough to see the moment when it presents itself.
Good luck falling in leadership, this Valentine's Day and every day after!
**Erika Weed is a doctoral candidate at The George Washington University, studying leadership and trying to reconcile the seemingly competing goals of happiness and success, for herself and others.