That’s right, we are all capable of leading. And each of us will lead in our own unique way. There, I’ve said it, against all the opinions of those who think not everyone can lead.
Imagine a world were everyone believes they can demonstrate leadership in their own lives, rather than feel its someone else’s job who is far more equipped. Imagine that this leadership can be authentic, unique as the person, and result in making changes, small and large.
For a long time the leadership ‘industry’ (those who research, write and teach leadership) has dissected leadership into its smallest parts in search of the magic formula for the making of the ultimate leader. The world has this craving at a social, political and corporate level. We desire the new hero to save us and take us away from the discomfort of our every day experience. We keep asking for someone else to lead us.
I think this has misdirected us to look for and assess leadership that is out of the grasp of the average person. Leaders have to be special, have a long list of capabilities, traits and even a certain look. They also need to choose their leadership style and hope they are agile enough, and practiced enough to shift styles for the situation. For those of us who feel the latest top 10 characteristics of a successful leader are just not us, leadership becomes unattainable. We doubt ourselves and leave this mystical thing called leadership up to someone else.
We have missed the point. Rather than looking to the generic model of leadership to shape our leaders, we should be encouraging each other to explore how we authentically express our leadership and how we can get better and better at doing so. How we can build self awareness to discern when we are leading as our best selves and when we are leading “from our dark side”?
When I look around at all the examples of leadership taking place in everyday lives, people are not consulting a checklist of capabilities to see if their ready to lead. They have a vision of what can be better in their world, a belief that it’s important, willingness to engage others and energy to get on and achieve it. This vision could be as humble as the need to change a roster to help people see their family more often, new gym equipment at the local park or as extraordinary as collecting left over food to feed the homeless, changing the self beliefs of students in a challenged school or changing social policy. And of course our more traditional views of creating amazing change in a corporation, disrupting an industry or changing the culture of our defense force. We are still unlikely to see the checklist or leadership models in the hands of our leaders in action.
This does not deny that some people will have more capacity for leadership than others and that some will feel called to lead and others will lead because what they want in the world is that important to them. Of course we can learn ways to enhance our leadership, but let’s not put the skills and tools ahead of the possibility that everyone can find a way to lead. Let’s focus on making leadership a practice available to everyone and build the belief and desire to lead, then focus on the enhancements!