This afternoon I came across an Inc. article, Great Leadership Is All About One Thing.
The author closes with the comment:
“I prefer a more expansive, externally-focused mindset: watch and listen to other people, languages, frameworks, structure, and everyone gets smarter. Leadership is about you–it just isn’t all about you.”
The article left me feeling very flat inside. Surprised a contributor to HBR would post this. Leadership is all about other people. You may be a leader, but it’s not about you at all. Not in my opinion. Yes, you can ‘lead’ from a position of authority. But dictatorial leadership has been declining for a couple decades.
Leadership is all about other people.
Leadership requires you to work predominantly through managing influence and expectations of those you work with. Heroic or dictatorial leadership styles may initially be effective, but over time will leave you far less effective as a ‘leader.’
This is particularly true the higher the level of education and sophistication of the workforce you’re engaging with.
Early in my career I learned this first hand. I was the technical lead in selling a new design standard to a domestic automotive manufacturer. We were successful, winning the technical decision as the new global plant design standard. Great.
In the U.S. we worked directly with the director responsible for 16 assembly plants. I expected, having won the decision, as director he would mandate adoption of our tools.
Deployments dragged on for months. In one meeting, he told us once the majority of plants adopted the new platform, he would then mandate the rest do the same. My expectation, that meant 9 out of 16.
Well, he had actually meant once he had coerced/influenced 14 of the 16, then he’d press the last 2.
Even directors with Tens of Thousands of people working under them can, only rarely, dictate anything. And, I’ll tell you, he was the warmest fellow to work with…not self-focused at all.
What are your thoughts? Good, bad, indifferent? I encourage you to share your experiences.