Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Leadership Challenge

I was recently asked to participate in a challenge called “Why Most Leadership Sucks, Including Yours…by John W. McKenna. I wasn’t thrilled with his languaging and told him as much to which he replied “I could do better”.

That in itself is a key statement. We can all do better. We can do better as leaders in our fields of practice, in life, with family, friends, and to set an example to those who don’t know us and have never met us but who will be touched by the ripple effect of what we do regardless of whether or not there's a personal connection.

About a year ago, one of the groups I’m involved in held an international symposium looking at stewardship of coaching world leaders. It was a fascinating dialogue about our roles in coaching people whose leadership has global implications and ramifications. Do we coach those who do not live in alignment with our own personal values and ethics? That’s a whole other conversation about authenticity, judgment, and the ethics of Coaching. I believe we cannot lead effectively unless we lead from our core values and ethics. If we’re working in an organization that doesn’t reflect those values, then we have to look good and hard if we want to align with that organization. There are many factors that determine the impact of our leadership.

We have a unique capacity to shape our lives. As leaders, we have a unique capacity to shape other’s lives.

If we allow others to determine our fates and our futures without contributing to the creation of what that will look like (and choice comes to play in this) then we deserve to live with the consequences. Leaders are not leaders without followers. We all have the choice to follow bad leaders, or not. For some it’s easier to let others shape our destiny for in doing that, when we fail, we can place blame.

The reverse is true as well, however. In allowing others to have that power over us we also have to give up our right to celebrate our successes, as we wouldn’t be responsible for them. I know I would rather fail than never try and I would rather celebrate my successes, knowing I was the one who achieved them, than give that joy over to someone else. It's taking risks every day to reach beyond the imaginable.

Under the surface, where the key dynamics of a personality lies is the person that builds pieces of our world as we know it, one who dreams and translates that dream into a vision we can all wrap our heads around. Those leaders are risk takers because to not go after their dreams isn’t even a remote possibility. Their energy, passion is a never-ending spring that never dries up, as with each person who comes on board and wants to ‘live it too’ that passion continues to feed the human spirit.

So I share this with you….I accept complete responsibility for everything I think, say, feel, and do. I am not afraid of making mistakes or of taking reasonable risks. I am a life-long student. I am always ready to learn, and I know growth takes sustained effort. And through that, I own and celebrate my successes and failures as they are both instrumental in that growth. Anything else for me and the global leaders I work with would be existing through life, not 'living' it. Each risk allows us to invent our futures. We all lead the way in our own lives with each choice we make…good and bad.

My three cents...
Donna Karlin

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