follow the leader (?)

25 june 2018

Do you know that children’s game: follow the leader? First a leader or head of the line is chosen, then the children all line up behind the leader. The leader then moves around and all the children have to mimic the leader's actions. Any players who fail to follow or do what the leader does, are out of the game. When only one person other than the leader remains, that player becomes the leader, and the game begins again with all players joining the line once again.

So for this week’s #ConnectWithContent, it’s about… leadership! Leadership comes in different shapes and sizes. But what does it take to be a good leader?

Someone to help us get ahead, get along, and find meaning

Leaders fulfill our intellectual thirst for meaning and purpose

Leaders are usually very competent, have good judgment, integrity, vision and are open to feedback, in order to grow and develop. Yet over and over again, leadership choices are driven by the wrong factors and we end up with ‘mean people’ at the top. 

How come?

Because we don’t seem to understand the difference between leadership effectiveness and leadership emergence according to this article on Fast Company. We also seem to believe that good leaders must be risk takers whereas the best leaders apparently tend to be prudent and conscientious. Too often, people are promoted to leadership positions simply on the basis of their technical competence and expertise, even when they lack the soft skills to build good relationships with subordinates and boost team morale–especially in difficult times.

So, technical experts don’t make good leaders?

Not according to this article on HBR, in which Amanda Goodall argues that the best leaders are technical experts, not general managers and that people managed by experts, are much more engaged in their work than people who are managed by generalists. We have to be honest, we don’t completely share her opinion on that. According to Goodall the best leaders are not only technical experts, they tend to have been in those organizations for a long time, or even founded those organizations. CEOs moving from one organization to another are less likely to take the long view, she says. We do agree with her when she states the importance of understanding the context into which management and leadership is going to happen. Taking people away from their context for a long training is that they tend to forget about their context, and by consequence their management and their leadership stuff is learned in a context-free environment. Which indeed could be problematic. Better to give them a drip drip training, she says, letting them return to the organization, where they can use those skills immediately.

Back to our question to you: what does it take to be a good leader?

It’s not about charisma anymore. It’s about chutzpah now!

Charisma is old school and no longer enough to get attention or to get ahead (?)

The future of work belongs to those who show fearlessness and who go after what they want and have the audacity to do it how they want. They are the ones changing the world and some call that chutzpah, a Yiddish word for the confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others. Now apparently there’s nothing good about chutzpah in Yiddish as it is an unambiguously negative quality characterized by a disregard for manners, social conventions, and the feelings and opinions of others. In the end it’s all about moderation. If you have a sense of purpose, then your chutzpah is going to be in the right place. It’s about saying ‘I’m not here just for me’. Because the world is not about you. There is a purpose, something that you and only you is going to have to get done. So chutzpah is the attitude where you say, ‘Nothing is going to stop me from making that [whatever that may be] happen.’#WeLikeThatIdea

To end this blogpost, we want to share a great ted talk and video with you about leadership. For sure you’ve seen it before because it’s been around some time now: the leadership lessons from the dancing guy…

The dancing guy :-)

The main take away from this video is that leadership is overglorified. It’s the first follower(s) that makes the leader a true leader.

Yes, a leader needs the guts to stand out. But more importantly, he needs to nurture his or her first follower, which is actually an underestimated form of leadership. The first follower is what transforms a lone nut, as Derek Shiven calls it, into a leader.

So leadership is about the movement, not about the leader. 

Oh and that children’s game, where the children have to copy the leader and the best copycat then becomes the new leader? Come on… we can do better, right?

See you next week!



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