In western cultures we love to create leaders. We have leadership programmes in schools, colleges and the workplace, yet there is still confusion as to what is a leader and why does it matter.
What we tend to lean towards in the west is management. We still judge people based on their job title, their power or position within an organisation. We still value ego.
Now that, in my view, feeds management, and not leadership. Management and leadership aren’t mutually exclusive, but they can be if we choose it. In fact, great leaders don’t need to manage at all. We train ourselves and our children to be managers, via our parenting, in our education systems and in our first roles in the workplace. We give instructions, we organize them, and give them processes to follow. Where as leaders support their followers to think for themselves, become accountable and learn risk and making mistakes. Leadership is the easiest way to get results, but seems to be the most difficult skill set to develop and maintain.
Managers control the day-to-day activities, processes, systems and people who operate them. It is their job to check and monitor and measure performance. It is a full-time job, and more often than not they are reviewing output, performance and statistics from numerous reports and graphs. Then they find there is just not enough time in the day to do the people stuff.
Many organizations state that their biggest issue is people. They cause the most problems, laziness, sickness levels, or they just don’t seem to care. My challenge is that this is a result of the management and leadership culture primarily not the people themselves.
Why does leadership matter?
In a work context, both Managers and Leaders are working to meet the objectives of the organization. However, the methods employed are quite different. The culture of leadership based cultures tend to engage their people, involve them, inspire them and create meaning for them.
What are the key behaviours and values in a leadership based culture?
The leader is always looking ahead. They look up, look around and use all senses to understand what is happening right now. They tend to remove themselves from detail, or the daily issues, and look holistically at the environment. They create a vision of where their team, department or organization is heading, being flexible and agile, to stay ahead. Then they communicate their vision, via goals, actions or strategy.
They lead from the front
Great Leaders are attuned to their core values and those of the organization. They do the right thing, rather than protecting their own backs (ego). By operating from their values they become trusted, their followers follow them because of their integrity, authenticity and trust.
They lead from within
Great Leaders understand that they can’t do it all, they don’t have all the answers and neither do they want to. They don’t delegate tasks, they empower others to become accountable and responsible over ideas, concepts and delivery. Leaders don’t tell people what to do, they ask them how can this be done? They let go of their need for control to enable creativity, innovation and meaning. No-one can motivate another person, but a great Leader can cultivate an environment where someone can find their own motivation.
They lead from the back
Great Leaders understand that when you empower and trust someone, that mistakes will happen. Being able to fail in a cultivating environment develops more innovation and creativity. In an environment where failure is berated, or blamed, competition, ego, protectionism become the culture. This culture drives stagnation, which means danger for any organization. Failure matters, failure is good for creativity.
They lead from the side
Working for an organization where Leadership is valued above management creates a very different culture and environment. Employees feel connected, with shared values, beliefs and meaning in the organization. They have been empowered to help develop themselves and their roles and know that their contribution matters. There is loyalty, trust, desire to make things better, collaboration and a sense of doing the right thing.
They lead as a whole