Defining leadership: How to do it right
A LOT of the work that I do is in relation to leadership development in an organisation and as a result we are also invited to speak about the topic to various groups. But what is "leadership”, actually?
It's a question we are often asked, and ask of others, because there are plenty of definitions depending on the group or environment and therefore it's open to interpretation. Personally I like the work of management theorist and leadership expert Simon Sinek. You may have heard of him or his TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, which is one of the top three most viewed.
A lot of what he talks about draws on neuroscience and the survival instinct, which is about moving away from threat and danger and moving towards safety and reward. He describes a great leader as someone who is able to create a sense of safety for those around him and how that builds trust and co-operation.
He also explains how it is the leader who sets the tone for the environment and who has the courage to take risks and go first into an unknown situation. They create a sense of safety so that those around them follow by choice and example, not because they are told to by someone in authority.
More recently Sinek has raised the question "What does parenting have to do with leadership?” So if you are a parent or primary carer, do you consider yourself to be a leader?
He describes the modern-day organisation as being the equivalent of the family or tribe in earlier times. It was the responsibility of the head of the family/tribe to keep their people safe and support them to thrive.
He likens a great leader as being similar to being a great parent. A great parent does all they can to create a safe environment for their children and give them the opportunity to experiment, take risks and fail at times. They also educate and ensure ongoing education for them, they help build their self-confidence and discipline them where necessary and influence, inspire and support them along the way so that they are able to develop and mature and achieve all that they are capable of.
I take that to mean that great leaders often have similar principles to great parents, view people in their care as family and treat them accordingly. However, not all leaders are great leaders and not all parents are great parents. Yet those in our care look to us as an example of what is acceptable and/or desirable and will emulate what we do whether good, bad or indifferent, not always recognising the difference.
And it's not just those in a traditional leadership role, parents or those in a parenting role. We all have the opportunity to be a leader and influence others through our principles and behaviour, and often do without realising it.
What sort of leader will you be today?