Thursday, February 20, 2014

On "Why Leading?"

Why would anyone want to lead? Done right it’s one of the toughest choices one can make.

Definition of leading (according to the text books):

  • having great importance, influence, or success (Merriam Webster)

  • guiding, directing influencing (Free Dictionary)

All the official definitions go into the same direction.

Here is what I observed during many years in many organizations / companies. People are eager to get a leadership position, because they want to have

  • more money
  • more power
  • more exposure
  • more importance
  • more prestige

Those were the main reasons many of them gave me when I asked. All these reasons are self-centered. It was about them and not about others. It was about their personal gain. The way hierarchies are still set up is fostering and rewarding that.

Unfortunately in most organizations / companies that has not changed yet. Hence, the lack of true leadership is more than clear. Why is it that so many people hate their jobs? Why is it that so many people call it “the 9 to 5 kind of death”? Why is it that so many people quit? They either quit and leave, or they quit but stay. And the main reason for that is their supposed leader. And the cost of that is immense. Yet, no one seems to care and calculate it. Would you call that success?

Leadership the way I see it is different. It is something else altogether.

I don’t recall who said that: “Do you want to know if you are a leader? Then turn around now and look if anyone is following you.” That hits the essence of leadership. When no one is truly following you, you are not a leader. Period.

Forget the many books about leadership. Forget the many rules you were taught. Think for yourself. What is it that makes people follow a leader? What is it that makes people respect a leader? What is it that makes people commit to their common goal no matter what?

Leading is always about others. Leading is about the people supposed to follow you. Following is a choice people make. And they make the choice to follow you only then, when it feels right. Yes, you heard me. “When it feels right”, in other words “feelings” play a huge role. The reasoning follows how one feels about it.

As a leader you must have first and foremost character. Skills you can learn, character is a given. Values like integrity, trustworthiness, honesty, respect are the foundation of being a true leader.

Leading is about making others grow. It’s not easy. It doesn’t matter how great you are. You must use your greatness to rise up others. Your success as a leader depends on making your team members reaching their true potential. You depend on your team.

Leading is about making decisions, making the tough calls. To be able to do that you must listen to what your team has to say. Leading is also about having no doubt into the capacity of your team. Yet, you take the responsibility no matter what might happen. And you never blame your team for failure. And success is always the team’s success.

Leading people means that you are here for your team. Anytime. That includes also personal worries they might have. The fact that they want to talk with you about it shows their trust in you.

Back to the question “why leading?”. Why should one take such a responsibility leading brings with it? You work more, you work harder, you think more and think harder. Are you nuts? Insane? Why would anyone want to do that? That’s what some might think.  

Here is “my” why:

Leading is a lot like music. Leading is the music you create through your leadership while others are playing the instruments. Leading is having all the different players listening to each other while they play. That’s creating a symphony.

Or, to use the words of Benjamin Zander: Leading is creating shiny eyes. That to me is the most rewarding experience.

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