I saw a fabulous quote the other day. It was from Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, and it stated, “Leadership is not about accumulating power. It’s about inspiring support for your ideas.” It is such a simple phrase, but has such far reaching implications.
As a leader in any organization, the truth is that your job is to show people the way. You are there to set the example. You are there to inspire people to follow the path you create. This is captured very clearly in the root of the word. Lead is defined as ‘to show someone the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them’. I see nothing in that word or definition that would indicate purpose is amassing organizational breadth or power.
Yet too many times we see leaders come into organizations and do exactly the opposite of what they should do. These ‘career executives’ are focused on expanding their reach, many times through discrediting others. They are not focused on solving problems, but rather, casting everything that has happened before them as broken and in need of their fixing. They won’t hesitate to distrust and disrespect the very people that they are supposed to be leading. They don’t inspire. They are confusing, divisive and demotivating. In what organization does that lead to improved performance?
Having entered a number of scenarios as a leader, I can attest to the fact that most of the talent that you need to be very effective in most situations already exists. But to find it, you must be prepared to listen and extend the appropriate courtesy. You will absolutely find people that are miscast in their current roles. In addition, you will find people ready to assume more responsibilities. There will be people that simply need guidance and coaching. And yes, there may be people that need to be moved out of the organization for one reason or another, but in my experience, that is always a small percentage; the exception, not the rule.
So if you find yourself in an organization where a leader or leaders is casting the majority of their people negatively, you really need to examine the reasons. Is it about leadership, or is it about expansionism? Is it about working above the line and creating positive change, or is it about tearing everything down to make themselves look better? Is it about showing the way and setting an example that inspires you to follow, or does it make you want to run out the door? If you find yourself fortunate enough to be in a leadership position, ask yourself what kind of leader you want to be. Always remain vigilant against picking up bad habits, like talking before listening, assuming everyone else is wrong, and distrusting the motivations of those you meet.