“Leadership” is a term representing an expanding collection of paradigms, formulas and practices. Up-to-the-minute “How to Lead” method books appear on bookseller’s shelves and websites regularly. It’s a hot topic. Public consumption of information about leadership grows unabated. How many new leadership guides have you or your organization read lately? So consider, how much real leadership is being produced and practiced in the current business world as a result of the assimilation of these most recent views? The answer of course depends on what is meant by “real leadership.”
Within these pages a foundation for leadership structure and implementation will be built based on timeless principles, and timely application. You are invited to determine if the leadership ideals and ideas take hold of you, if you agree with the premise and practices, and if you would be willing to put these into action. Principles when followed change people’s behavior; indeed, life-engagement is affected, producing enduring results for the leader and those whom the leader impacts.
You’ve probably seen televised “extreme sports.” Get a visual on this: half-pipes, skateboarder’s limber frames turning, rolling, dipping, rising and falling seemingly without regard to gravity, of the situation or the physics. Across the bottom of the TV screen scrolls this message (repeated for emphasis): “Don’t try this at home.” “Don’t try this at home.” “Don’t try this at home.” Even with protective gear it is high-risk activity with a goal of perfection.
Leadership, too, can be high risk; however, not with a goal of perfection, rather, perseverance. You can try what you read here at home, in fact, are strongly encouraged to. Take the risk of leading well.
Leadership based on principles endures, because principles endure. Embodied in their very natures are encouragements to utilize them in all of life’s arenas, repeatedly. Principles applied at work will affect community, home, and family. Balance in one will be evidenced in efforts to achieve balance in others because principles are transferable. Actively try and apply what you learn: at work, with your project team, your club, at the gym, playing sports, at home, on the golf course, in the sewing group, at school, wherever you are among people who may look to you for leadership’s example.
The title phrase is a play on its words, of course. “Leadership Is--” means first that it exists, and because it exists and may be desired, we will deal with it. The phrase also constitutes an unfinished sentence. The student of leadership completes this sentence in ways he or she chooses. This same student considers numerous opinions and scores of options gleaned from a plethora of books, seminars and “leadership gurus” who all possess a theory of what leadership should be. Leadership Is-- is an additional offering, a small one in comparison to some, perhaps one from which you may profit even more. Let’s see.
If you are “in charge” of anything or anyone, the question isn’t whether you are leading, the question is what kind of leadership you are choosing in front of those who look to you. Right from the outset the leader has to decide what degree of personal choice and responsibility helps contribute to a follower’s success?
When they look carefully, leaders discover that few “new” leadership models are appropriate and worthy of exercise from a personal investment point of view; the faster and more competitively paced environments in which business is conducted discourage taking time for people. But leaders also learn that building into people has some great rewards.
Investment in the follower is the central nugget of truth in leadership that works and builds legacies that last. Great leadership is robbed of its core of integrity and potential for positive change when a practicing leader does not act upon the essential truth of building into the people that follow. Success in leadership achievement is defined as seeing another person fulfill their dreams and goals with the leader’s teaching, modeling, encouragement and support.
Leadership implies followers, and in the course of leading people, those who are in positions of authority and influence are called upon to responsibly choose the types of people investment in which they will engage themselves and the people they impact. In a healthy leader-follower environment the follower witnesses and duplicates the examples shown from the leader, and because principled actions are transferable, invests these into another follower, guaranteeing legacy. Followers carry on what leaders have modeled when the followers emulate their leaders, not because they have to, rather, because they want to. Creating earnest desires to emulate well builds ownership and leadership-transfer that transcends circumstance, and builds character: a worthy goal.
The lasting and positive choices of engaged leadership build tracks of networking in which relationships of Dependence (Impact Leadership), Independence (Influence Leadership), and Inter-Dependence (Investment Leadership), are created and modeled (see Chapter 2). Leadership choices set the tone and provide the context in which healthy relationships are born and flourish, or in which seeds of unhealthy relationships, where trust and accountability are virtually or actually absent and improper ownership and selfishness become the rule and not the exception, are planted and nourished. Consequences of investment in follower’s lives are consistent with, and integrated into a leader’s deliberate choices of the kinds of leadership to be employed.
Leadership is a decision, one that not everyone can or will make, and it may be a gift or calling as well. Defined: leadership is a state of interaction with others that can and must be cultivated to create duplicative results for positive and regenerating impact. Followers look to leaders to provide examples of how to follow as well as lead. That truth simply adds more importance to leading and following well, where following and leading are patterned according to a regenerating model where character and consistency are the motivators. Effective leadership should not, and does not die with the leader. Leadership that is lived out changes lives, and looks continuously for ways to expand roles of accomplishment through dedicated followers, regardless of the tasks, who so own the leader’s principled and applied investment that their impact becomes even stronger in the leader’s absence. The result is duplication that is both truth sustaining and life enduring.
Reducing leadership to a set of laws, forms or formulas may represent efforts to simplify what is really not that simple. It is responsible and right to position leadership as an attribute of character development that may be evidenced in multiple styles of presentation through varied personalities. This view sees great leadership as a result of intentional choice, building its foundation based on principles that shall not change even though the leader’s methods of its application might. This view is not simple, but it is significant, and worth the pursuit to understand it, and do leadership well.
The contents that follow are built upon solid and unalterable leadership precepts of life-giving, life-sustaining service, an immutable standard. In this examination we will explore Who Leaders Are and What Leaders Do—The Principle of Life-Investment, Leadership Tracks and Traits, Investment Leadership Initiative, Qualifying Trials, Quality Investments, Quantifying Tests, Creating Leadership Models that Work, Moving People, Leadership’s Finish: Lines of Success, and Action Steps.
Leadership Is-- contains a selection of case studies entitled, “Living Proofs.” Living Proofs are illustrative stories from actual incidents. The incidents showcased and the principles applied occurred through real people in real work place environments. Names and business enterprises of companies are fictitious; names of real participants have been changed. Any resemblance to actual names of people or situations within recognizable companies is purely coincidental.
Living Proofs are placed throughout the book to show what real-life applications of principles presented in Leadership Is-- can be, as changes in behavior bring about good consequences. These consequences are proofs that leadership based on principle can build legacies that last.
When a company VP asked a leadership consultant from Creative Team Resources Group, Inc., (http://www.ctrg.com) whether or not the consultant could guarantee that his product would work if purchased for the VP’s company, the consultant replied with a smile, “Absolutely not.” When questioned why, the consultant responded, “Because I am not in charge of your character.” Existing character and determination a leader brings to the table will make up a grid of understanding and application that within that leader’s own experience may or may not bring about the success the leader may desire. That leader may have to change his or her perspective and behavior first if change in an organization is to come to pass.
When a leader sees that change is needful —in his or her character and habits— in a work group, a family, any environment, the leader quickly concludes that causing that change to occur can be tough. Guarantees of human participation are difficult if not impossible to manufacture or force. If change is needed, attitudes have to open up, be receptive; character needs to be exposed. Imposed change contradicts inclusive change, and inclusive change is preferred. Real desires for change are built through giving and receiving great information that encourages investigation on the part of those who need to change, because they see the benefits, and then want them earnestly enough to make the efforts needed to achieve them. Learning becomes living, and communication is completed when behaviors change willfully, because the ones who need to change own the process. That’s the goal.
If you are the leader, use the Living Proofs as encouragements toward quality decisions and changes you will be called upon to consider as you read. You will see that change is going to begin with you before beginning with those you lead. When you change you initiate constructing your legacy through the others who follow you, because they view your example, and want to emulate it.
If you agree with what is presented, you will act. You will choose a leadership track and methodology that best suits you and those you lead. Lives will be affected, and your experience will likely become its own living proof within your spheres of impact, influence, or investment. Build your legacy. Enjoy the run.