Not seen as often as we would like, the real leader. Much mentioned. Described in detail. In the classrooms, the course, the books, the blogs the magazine specials. The top 10 leadership qualities. Leading for the future. The authentic leader. Lessons in leadership. Leadership for dummies. The laws of leadership. 10 things great leaders do before breakfast.
We’ve read the books, been on the course, and got the t-shirt. You could spend your life reading leadership books, frameworks, checklists. Trying out the new approaches, the latest thinking, the recent best seller. Scratch the surface and so many are just dresing up the same old wine in new bottles. But despite the plethora of information, the investments made, so many people, so many organisations, are still getting it so wrong.
People who think they can, think they do, think they are. People who pretend. Read a book, tick a box. Read a list, check it off. Got a problem im your company? We will send people on a two day course, of course!
We all want good leadership in our organisations. We certainly spend enough time talking about it, spending money on courses to deliver it. But do we know what it really means, to us, where we are, in our own organisation, day to day?
If the strived for true leader turns up tomorrow, at your place, would you know it, recognise it, feel it? How would you know you had got it, anyway?
I hear talk of leadership, everywhere. It is the ‘thing’. The term is so overused I barely know what it means anymore. No one can seem to agree on its definition, what the qualities are, how you show it, how you live it, which type is best. But then again, if we did, the books would stop selling. The links would stop circulating.
I do know that the answer isn’t in a top ten list. I do know that I can’t put it in a checklist and tell people to follow it. I do know that a quick course isn’t a cure all. Leadership isn’t universal, it is contextual. What it means to me, to my organisation, my industry, the people I work with, is different to you and yours. So define it for you and your place.
Create your own leadership list.
You mention that you struggle to know what leadership means anymore. Maybe part of the problem is that we set ourselves up by identifying great leaders that we should aspire to be like. These leaders (another list for you) are not the norm and few come round once in a generation. In a similar way many people try to replicate what society dictates gorgeous people look like which, in turns creates eating disorders and so on.
Maybe we should review what we are trying to achieve and ask are we being pragmatic or fair?