There has been a debate for years about what makes a leader. This debate has resulted in two schools of thought. One school proposes that leaders are made from a select few unique of individuals, born with a rare set of leadership abilities – leaders are born. The other school of thought proposes that leaders are made, that we learn, grow and develop into leaders – leaders are made.
Many see leaders as those with power and position. This view of leadership assumes that leaders are the few people at the top of an organisation. Nothing could be further from the truth!
“All the effective leaders I have encountered – both those I worked with and those I merely watched – knew four simple things: a leader is someone who has followers; popularity is not leadership, results are; leaders are highly visible, they set examples; leadership is not rank, privilege, titles or money, it is responsibility.” – Peter Drucker
Position, title and authority are often confused with leadership. We often read news reports that refer to anyone with a title as a “leader”. However, leadership is not an actual position or title. Whether you’re the president of a country or a chief executive officer, your title does not make you a leader. All a title does is make you a senior executive.
Henry Ford is reported to have said, “Why is it that every time I hire a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?” This thinking is a reflection of how work was managed in a manufacturing era, where the repetitive nature of tasks required people to think as little as possible. The purpose of a team during these times was to manage the execution of a repeatable process as efficiently as possible. Leaders relied on authority, hierarchy, incentives, rewards and punishments to keep teams productive. History has shown that this approach was successful and worked well in a manufacturing era, however times have subsequently changed.
“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.” – Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne, 1926
It’s no secret that busyness kills leadership.
- Busy leaders are reactive, working hard at solving yesterday’s problems.
- Busy leaders spend the majority of their time on necessary, but mundane tasks.
- Busy leaders lose sight of the big picture, forgetting why they’re doing the stuff they’re doing.
- Busy leaders spend a lot of their time rowing in circles, making little progress on the few items that really matter.
The competitive environment of today demands increased innovation. And innovation demands increased collaboration and teamwork. Yet effective teamwork remains elusive for the majority of organisations.
Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that “time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more over the last two decades – at many companies more than 75% of an employee’s day is spent collaborating with colleagues.”. However, the research also found that:
”In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.”.
So whilst we’ve moved to open plan offices and increased the number of creative thinking spaces, we still have a lot to learn about teaming and making collaboration work.
“Until you ‘figure out what success means’ to you personally and to your organisation, leadership is an almost ‘pointless conversation’, Drucker Admonished, Success Built to Last
Effective leadership requires a clear definition of success. Every morning you’re faced with a myriad of things to get done, all competing for your attention. When you have a ton of things on your “to do” list and you lack a clear definition of success you quickly lose focus, become reactive and leadership fails.
Getting clear on your definition of success is critical for successful leadership. You cannot lead unless you know where you’re going.