There are so many questions about leadership, so many stories! And I’m as bad/good as everyone else, as smart/dumb about buying into mythologies and processes that succeed/fail. Leadership is a great unknown, a dream of a common language of aspiration, of hope, of transformation.
I was thinking this morning — what do I really know about leadership? What can I say that I believe with certainty? Here are a few things that are my personal touchstones, my fool’s gold, my dream of leadership.
1. Leadership is failing forward. We only know what we’ve accomplished and how to correct our errors when our choices are well and truly over. And it’s frustrating, because accomplishment and failure always happen simultaneously, so we get to cheer and groan and continue to fail forward, as long as we continue to lead.
2. The only great leader is a dead leader. That is, we’re only great when our work is done, and history can put us up on the pedestal without much danger of us falling off. That’s why Nelson Mandela is a leadership saint, but we love/hate Barack Obama. Reader, fill the page with other examples….
3. The only difference between leaders and followers is our definition of leadership that labels these roles to fit our theory. If there is a difference, it’s situational, vague and theoretical, dependent on a definition of The Leader as The Hero, a person who stands out, takes risks, innovates, gets more money or acclaim or insults than the average person, i.e. the follower. But despite all our talk about creative followers, we tend to minimize the powerful role of a leader’s team.