Leadership is a collective… it happens at every level, with everyone in every action and every activity.
As a Leader, you are accountable to exercise leadership properly. Leadership has to be relevant. Leadership has to be willing to change with the shifting landscape that provides the context for leadership for leadership is always context specific.
Of course this is not to imply that the practice of your leadership has to be faultless. Good leadership will always reveal the ‘fault lines’ rather than attempt to disguise them. Good leadership happens in the full realization of the very real and present faults that make up the leadership milieu.
However I want to return to the though of ‘leadership as a collective.’ This phrase, ‘leadership is a collective’, was used by Phil, executive responsible for leadership development within his organisation, at a conference I recently addressed. The moment he said it I was not only struck by how well it resonated but also, how easily overlooked this reality is in a world where it is easy to default leadership thinking and practice to a very ‘me-centric’, egotistical focus. Leadership can only happen because of others. Without ‘followers’ (others), there can be no leadership. Of course there is the very real understanding of ‘self-leadership – but this is not what I am talking about in this instance.
Leadership practice is the act of living out leadership in a context of others. It is the awareness that why and how one leads has to connect to those being led. This is what provides the motivation for authentic feedback and what creates the need for meaningful accountability. This is what gives leadership meaning and purpose. So obvious, yet somehow also something that is so often ignored.
Somehow all this may well sound somewhat philosophical or abstract. ‘What does this mean in the daily reality of my leadership practice?’ you might well be asking.
That is a good question.
Well then how about trying this: Every day for a week, spend your first five minutes of your day considering who it might be that you will be connecting with during the course of that day. Your meetings, the usual and predictable informal interactions – and of course there will be many other interactions that you cannot anticipate but pause and think about those you know about. As you do so ask yourself this, ‘what kind of leader do I need to be when with this person?’ It might help to change the perspective and consider ‘what kind of leader this person expects me to be when I am with them’. This should immediately evoke some deliberate things to do and say when with this person. This represents the start of intentional invitational leadership. It creates a focus on the ‘other person’ when very often, for many a leader, it can all too easily become all about ‘me’ and ‘my agenda’. It is the first stepping-stone to empathy, a real consideration of the other person’s state of being.
That momentary pause, that intentional thinking about your leadership practice could make a significant difference as to how others experience their interaction with you. Smart leaders make this type of thinking an unconscious habit but for it to becomes such, it first needs to become an intentional act on your part.
Leadership is a collective. What exactly does this mean for you?