22 February, 2009

Leadership

I am so behind in posting, now I have a million thoughts and posts in my head, but I will try to spell them out in a logical way (and in different posts).

Events in my life and in my quiet time have got me thinking about leadership. One post I read recently asked if you were a competent leader (having suitable of sufficient skill, knowledge, and experience or being adequate, but not exceptional) or an exceptional leader (best in the world). Or to put it another way:
The passive leader takes no time to assure individuals that they add value to the organization beyond what they produce. He or she takes no time to manage the conflicts that makes people afraid to come to work. And he or she cares little that major contributors are being driven out of the enterprise by jealous (or passive) bosses or colleagues. The leader who hears rumblings and thinks, “That’s their business. Let them work it out” is the leader who lays the groundwork for organizational dysfunction – and eventual disaster. (Sid Buzzle. Leadership Bible p.39)

Here's the thing - as someone who has worked for bosses who chew you out for a forgotten comma, to ones who work to better you as an assistant, and everything in between - the way an organization functions is really top down. I was asked to read Built to Last for my work - which is in some ways ironic to me because we seem to be doing the opposite of everything in that book. Leadership is more than power, more than position, you can be a leader and not be in charge. "The leader's specific place on the chart is not nearly as important as the relationship that exists between that leader and those he or she is commissioned to lead (ibid p.166)."

The most important thing in leadership is trust. In every other relationship in our lives trust is the foundation that leads to everything else. If I don't trust you I won't open up to you, value your opinion, be motivated to join you on random adventures - I won't believe your vision for the future because you have given me no reason to believe you now. To be around someone who won't address conflict, who won't stand up for what's right, who won't take the hard road or offer platforms for feedback doesn't inspire a lot of trust, loyalty, etc. in the people around them.

Which got me thinking...

A friend of mine listed his top 10 leaders from the last 100 years. His list includes MLK, Reagan, Mother Teresa and Walt Disney. So, is leadership an action or a status of popularity? In response to someone's question along the same lines, my friend answered, "...I think some are/were popular and great leaders as well. Oprah is probably the most glaring example of someone who is wildly popular, but not sure what kind of leader she is. But if one defines leadership as influence, then she definitely has reason to be on the list."

I started this in October - realizing I don't have a full grasp on history, and that I tend to be a behind the scenes person in who we should lift up. Also, I struggled with whether or not to include bad leaders (Hitler, Mao) - leadership doesn't not always mean moving people in the right direction... Here is my list (for now) in no particular order:

1 - Eleanor Roosevelt
2 -Walt Disney
3- MLK Jr.
4 - Gandhi
5 - John Humphrey
6 - Mandella
7 - Churchill
8 - Mother Teresa
9 - Che Guevara
10 - E.D. Morel

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