Sunday, January 06, 2008

Leadership: Assumptions or Facts?

I was revisiting many of the comments I've received in the past and they got me thinking….

I heard everything from “Talking about leadership style is a distraction” to analogies re the present Administration to definitive ideas of what makes a leader. These are amazing, insightful comments.

I wonder how many assumptions are made around the term and definition of ‘leader’? One might assume that a leader needs followers. One might assume a leader is brought on board to help evolve an organization. And one might assume that a leader has the ideas, insight and innovation to bring a stagnating organization forward. There are assumptions that leaders have the “ability to see a bigger picture than us and an ability to make meaning for us”. That is definitely not the case, though something most people crave in their leaders.

I could ask 100 people about what they look for in a leader and get 100 different answers. Oh yes, there would be commonalities, but as everyone’s needs differ, so do their needs for what they want in a leader.

A question recently asked is “Do leaders really listen to advice or do they use advice to validate what they already know and want to do?” A great question. To find out the answer I’d have to poll many a leader. You might assume I’m going to pose that question to you (and you would be right)

Listening to advisors and integrating their advice are very different and can really impact a leader’s world. Paying attention to informed advisors can also make or break a leader. I know many in positions of leadership who are known for their experience and level of expertise but that doesn’t mean they have the up to the minute information they need or are up on current trends. No one person has all the information necessary to run an organization. What they need are the right contacts in various areas of expertise to give them what they need when they need it.

As a Shadow Coach™, one of the dynamics I question clients on is when they say “Interesting concept, however I would have done it this way”… and continue to outline their perspectives. When this happens on a regular basis, I challenge my clients to stretch beyond what they know into the world of the unknown to listen for and integrate what they didn’t know.

Great leaders listen to the wisdom of those around them. I’ll go out on a limb to not only say that’s an assumption but a fact. Learning is more than gathering information. It’s being open to realizing you don’t know and will never know all you need to know to lead and operate from that premise.

Your thoughts on this?

Donna Karlin

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