Mother ducks are better leaders than many Fortune 500 CEOs. Chicks will risk life and limb following her across the busy streets of Boston. Would you do that for you boss? How about AFTER he/she steps out of the corner office? Do your leaders have a place in your heart as well as positional authority, or when they leave will you cut them out like cancer to avoid long-term illness?
What is leadership?
Oh, if we had a nickel for every time someone asked and answered that question. So many of the definitions are tautological “a leader is someone who leads others.” or superficial “A leader is a person who has a vision, a drive and a commitment to achieve that vision, and the skills to make it happen.” This one seems to be getting closer to the truth:
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis
But how do we really know a leader is really a leader? He or she has followers, even when the corner office, private jet, and positional authority are stripped away. A really clarifying question then, is:
Why do people follow?
• Because he is realizing “truth” and you want to be part of it. This is “vision”. When people say a leader is visionary, this is what she’s doing. Where she is going makes sense in head and heart. You feel it. It’s undeniable.
• Because she can communicate this vision in a way that you understand – in writing and out loud – to individuals and large groups.
• Because what he is doing gives you meaning, aligned with your moral blueprint.
• Because a leader sees the truth (empathy = it’s not about her) not just in situations, but also in people, including YOU.
• Because you grow in his presence. Leaders grow people. Period. Anyone who does not do this is not a leader. Parents do this most poignantly of all. Parenting is not a prerequisite for leading, but people who deprioritize family are highly unlikely to grow anyone else. So why do so many organizations demand this sacrifice of men and women as we grow in leadership?
• Because you have compassion, even agape love in the best cases, between/among you and in what you do together.
• Because others are climbing on board. There is both safety and opportunity in numbers, human beings know this at a primal level.
• Because the leader is a “master” at something vital, and you want to apprentice with him.
Whom have you (truly) followed throughout your life (not just at work) and why? Who has followed you and why?
Thanks to Eva Basilion for her collaboration on this post.
Picture from Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey