What if Leadership is not a configuration of the “right” qualities but instead a perspective that one views the world through? There are numerous interpretations of what makes a good leader. In fact, there are just as many interpretations of the definition of good leadership. Don’t believe me? Just Google either term and see how many results you get.
Consider that what’s crucial about leadership is how it “shows up” in reality. In other words, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Leadership as a concept or description of qualities is not all that valuable. However, Leadership “on the court,” in the moment it’s needed is what counts.
This article will outline a framework for leadership that gives one access to providing and inspiring leadership in the moment it is needed. The four elements that make up this framework are Integrity, 100% Responsibility, Focusing on What Works and Creating the Future.
“Without integrity, nothing works.” ~ Werner Erhard
Integrity is a term that most people equate with honesty and morality and it is seen as a “fixed” state, i.e., either you have integrity or you don’t. What if instead integrity had more to do with honoring your word? Said another way, to have integrity means that you “walk your talk,” i.e., your words and your deeds (actions) match.
Effective leaders are those who do what they say by when they said it would be done and if they fail to do so, they acknowledge the broken promise and deal with the impact of the failure on others as well as re-promise when appropriate. Effective leaders do not take their words for granted. They recognize that if they dishonor their word they will lose the respect of others as well as their self-respect.
Consider each time you break a promise or act inconsistent with who you say you are, you are diminished in your own eyes and in the eyes of others unless you acknowledge the break in integrity and deal with the impact of your broken promise.
“Take your life into your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: No one to Blame.” ~ Erica Jong
The concept of cause and effect is an illusion. There is always more to the story than we know. If a boulder rolls down a hill and crashes into a fence, one could say the boulder caused the broken fence. But what made the boulder roll? If someone pushed it, are they the cause of the broken fence? But what if someone pushed them into the boulder? There is always something that came before.
Effective leaders do not look for who is to blame. They own their results, all of them, the good, the bad and the ugly. Effective leaders have the perspective that they are 100% responsible for everything in their lives, not because it is true but because it enables them to look for ways to alter their actions to create different results.
For example, if you ask an employee or colleague to perform a task and he or she agrees to do it, then you explain how you want it done and he or she does it incorrectly one option is to blame him or her for not listening or being stubborn or any of a number of reasons. Another option if you are being 100% responsible is to ask yourself, “What was missing from my explanation that led to that result?”
Being 100% responsible keeps you in the game of continuing to learn and grow and empowering yourself to positively impact the results.
Focusing on What Works
“We have reached the end of problem solving as a mode of inquiry capable of inspiring, mobilizing and sustaining human system change.” ~ Dr. David Cooperrider
At any given moment you have a choice of what to focus on: what’s working or what’s not working. Most people spend the vast majority of time and energy focusing on what doesn’t work and trying to fix it. Now this might elicit the response, “Of course I do that’s how to improve”.
Focusing on what doesn’t work actually slows down growth and development. It can keep you stuck and prevent you from moving forward. The bottom line is that the way we have been trained to think about change has been wrong.
It is not that you should ignore what doesn’t work but be honest, how long have you been working on it? For most of us it has been years of trying to improve the same thing only to see incremental progress.
Focusing on what works is another way to view life. Think about it, if you want to be rich, you would not study poor people. If you want to be thin, you would not study overweight people. Success is not found by studying failure and doing the opposite. Success has a texture and depth all its own.
Effective leaders know that discovering what works and doing more of it leads to more success. Focusing on what works energizes and enlivens people unleashing their natural creativity and enthusiasm.
Creating the Future
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
Effective leadership is predicated on the notion that the future is ours to create. In fact, one could say that a leader is someone who makes an unpredictable future come true. Great leaders understand that the future only exists in language. In other words, there is no future in reality because we are always in the present moment.
A leader creates the future they want by declaring how it is going to go then taking actions consistent with their declaration. They don’t look at the present situation and try to fix it. Instead they ask, “Given this situation, what do I want to create?”
Leaders realize that there are no barriers to what they want only design problems to figure out and new ways of thinking to invent. The greatest of leaders are willing to stand for something that seems impossible and trust that those around them will rise to the level needed to make it become a reality.
President John F. Kennedy did just that with the space program. He declared the United States would put a man on the moon within the decade. He made the declaration well before the technology was invented to make it happen. His declaration caused the scientists to think differently and figure out how to resolve many problems that never existed before. Landing a man on the moon was accomplished in eight years.
Each of these elements on their own will positively impact your results and your effectiveness as a leader however when these four elements are taken together you will have a breakthrough in your ability to inspire and provide leadership leading to unprecedented results that exceed your expectations.