One of the laws of physics states that “for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction”. The same is true for leadership, “for every action a leader takes there is a corresponding reaction from followers”. This simple truth is often over-looked by leaders, as leaders we often under estimate the influence we have over followers. I’m often reminded of this in situations where people say to me, “remember when you said xzy to me a few years ago? Well, that caused me to change this in my life”. Usually I don’t remember the exact situation they’re referring to or what I said however, it always reminds me, that as leaders, we never know when and what impact we’re having on others. As leaders we often under-estimate our influence.
“Leaders live in fish bowl and are always being watched. They should always be conscious of that fact and take advantage of it.” – Gene Klann
Leaders are being watched all the time. Every gesture, action and word is being closely observed. In a New York Times article, “He Wants Subjects, Verbs and Objects” based on an interview with Richard Anderson, chief executive of Delta Air Lines, makes the following point:
We can learn about leadership formally, through training or informally through conversation. There are times when opportunities to engage with successful leaders present themselves unexpectedly. How many of us make productive use of these opportunities? If you were invited to meet a successful leader over lunch, what questions you would ask him or her?
The more I read about leadership and the more I observe leaders, I’ve come to believe the Russian proverb that “A fish rots from the head.” as true. An organisation is the shadow of the leader. An organisation and a team is only as successful as it’s leader. John Maxwell in his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” refers to this as “The Law of the Lid“, which states that:
“Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness… Leadership ability is always the lid on personal and organisational effectiveness.”
An organisation’s culture can be a source of competitive advantage or a huge obstacle to achieving its goals. The importance of culture really struck me after reading “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? “. In the book Lou Gerstner, the former CEO and Chairman of IBM, reflects on the turnaround he orchestrated during his tenure, as follows.