Leadership that Lasts

Leadership is about shaping beliefs, desires, and priorities. Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and serve in a variety of positions. People who serve in leadership positions are not perfect. They are human beings just like everyone else. They make mistakes. How a leader handles mistakes is what sets him or her apart from the followers. Followers expect leaders to make decisions. Followers expect leaders to make decisions after receiving input from a variety of sources. “Leadership” is a verb not a noun.

Leadership is about influence not compliance. So many times, people who serve in a leadership position focus on ensuring their people are in compliance with their way of thinking. Leaders in my opinion should be worried more about performance and the quality of performance to a set standard. It is the leader who needs to set the standards that will improve overall performance of the individual and the company.

And while we are on compliance let me state simply:

If we are going to have rules and we all know we have to have rules.

Rules should be short and specific.

Rules should be easily taught and remembered.

Rules should define critical risk issues.

Leadership needs to be distinguished from such things as management, decision-making, and authority. These are all important in the leadership process, but these components don’t add up to a leader. The key reason is that these actions do not necessarily involve winning the loyalties of others or harnessing their energies. Leadership always does. If one can inspire people to take a certain path in a given direction, they must also be able to continue on that path even in the absence of the leader. Actions, activities and programs must be institutionalized by the leader to invest in those employees who may be there long after the leader moves on, up or out. The long-term sustainment of programs and projects after a leader leaves is the true mark of influence.

A persuasive leader can increases the credibility to new programs, and can make future changes more likely and easier to achieve. Instead of being self-depleting, true leadership is self-regenerating. It is this remarkable almost alchemic quality that makes the topic of leadership so fascinating and so important. In order to understand leadership, we need to focus on the mental states and processes that lead people to listen to leaders, take heed what they have to say, and to take on the vision of the leader as their own. It is important to stress; however, this emphasis does not reflect a reductionist belief that leadership is an entirely psychological phenomenon that can be explained by psychology alone.

When you look at how leadership operates “in the world,” you see that the reality of leadership is very much “of the world.” Not only is leadership a critical part of the world as we know it, but it is also the primary means by which our world has changed. The key reason for this is that leadership motivates people to put their shoulders to the wheel of progress and work towards a common goal. Our focus is to understand the nature of the “mental glue” that binds leaders and followers together in this effort. What commits them to each other and to their shared task? What drives them to push together in a particular direction and what encourages them to keep on pushing?

Leadership is never about “I.” It is about identifying or extolling the special stuff that sets some apart from others and projects them into positions of influence. For most of us, effective leadership is always about how leaders and followers come to see each other as part of a common team or group. It therefore has little to do with the individuality of the leader and everything to do with whether they are seen as part of the team, as a team player, as able and willing to advance the company, battalion or department. Leadership, in short is very much a “we thing.”

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