Why learn to be a leader? To be involved in what really matters to you. To be able to do what matters to you. To have companions on your journey. You must be a leader in any area where you want more influence. How can we pin down leadership, one of the most talked about and written about subjects in business? Is it charisma? Influence? Inspiration? Stewardship? Yes. It may be.
There are many reasons you set out on your journey. There are many roads, many destinations and many ways to travel. Leadership has a paradox at its centre – you cannot grab it for yourself directly, it is a gift, which can only be given by others. It comes when they recognise you, because being a leader has no meaning without others who choose to travel with you. A leader all alone is like the sound of one hand clapping.
Three areas of leadership stand out:
2. Influencing and communication skills,
3. Systemic thinking.
You need to be strong and resourceful to make the journey. You need to influence others and inspire them to join you else you risk being a lone traveler and not a leader. And you need a road map, for even though you may be strong in yourself, you may get lost in a complex system.
First of all, being a leader means developing yourself. As you become a leader, you find resources in yourself you did not know you had. You become more yourself, because a leader’s greatest influence comes from who they are, what they do, and the example they set.
Secondly, a leader inspires others to join them on the road, so leadership involves communication and influencing skills.
Thirdly a leader must look forwards, as well as paying attention to where they have been and where they are now. They see further than the immediate situation, they see it in the context of the whole journey. This means they need to understand the system they are part of, to see beyond the obvious, to sense how events connect to deeper patterns, while others may see only isolated happenings. Leadership is a combination of who you are, the skills and talents you have, and your understanding of the situation or the context you are in. While these elements are universal, you will put the pieces together in a way unique to you.
The word ‘manage’ has an interesting history. It is derived from the Italian word ‘maneggio’ meaning to train a horse. There is a need for leadership in business, and at the same time a vacuum about what this means in practice and how to make the change.
Leadership is part of, and the result of, the great changes in management practice in the last twenty years. It replaces the old ‘command and control’ model of running an organisation. In most business organisations, particularly in the Western world, we just do not obey orders any more. At least not without a good reason, one we can honestly endorse. ‘Command and control’, based on a military mentality was appropriate twenty years ago in a different social climate and a stable business environment.
Now this stability has gone, a casualty of a frenetic pace of change, In its place there are new values of self-esteem and individual responsibility, and a business culture that values employability above employment. The command and control way of managing is dead, although like Dracula, it flickers into life occasionally in isolated outposts, to drain the vitality from organisations.
Leadership is based on purpose, vision, and values, it is not a quality that can be rationed or controlled. Purpose to set the destination, vision to see where you are going, and values to guide you on the way towards a successful and sustainable future. Leaders are needed to guide the organisation, and to develop others as leaders.
What resources do we have to help us? Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a broad field that began in the mid nineteen seventies modeling excellent communicators – finding out how they did what they did so well.
NLP models how we do what we do. In essence NLP studies the structure of subjective experience – how we create our own unique internal world from what we see, hear and feel, and how in turn our mental world shapes what we allow ourselves to see, hear and feel on the outside. NLP has modeled top people in every field – managers, salespeople, teachers, and trainers, in order to teach others these skills, so they do not have to reinvent the wheel. It has a wealth of material from leaders, how they think, and what they believe.
NLP is made up of three parts.
‘Neuro’ is our neurology – how we think and feel.
‘Linguistic’ is the language part, what we say, how we say it and how we are influenced by what we hear.
‘Programming’ is how we act to achieve our results.
NLP helps us to understand what leaders do and how they get their results, so you can take those parts that suit you and fit with your values and beliefs. You don’t copy them, you learn from them to achieve your goals. Whatever skills you have, NLP can help you make more of them. It also gives practical ways of developing those skills not an intellectual appreciation of how nice the skills would be to have, or how great they are in other people. NLP is a valuable guide on the leader’s journey.