Myth 1: Leaders are the great men of any generation

When I was at school, I loved history and I remember the focus largely was on great men – be it Robespierre, Churchill, Henry VIII. It rarely featured women or looked beyond key individuals. Yet this is a myth and puts way too much pressure on those that are figure heads. Just look what happened to António Horta-Osório, the head of Lloyds Banking Group. He had to take time out last November because of extreme fatigue. It made headline news.

In every untruth, there is a grain of truth. It takes a huge amount of resilience to stand back from the crowd and walk your own path. And yet those of us running our own businesses have the potential to be leaders. A bold statement perhaps but it depends how you define a leader. Here’s the definition I like:

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader ~ John Quincy Adams

Inspiring stuff isn’t it? As Robin Sharma wrote you can be a leader without a title. In practical terms that means we need to be clear about what our stake is and be willing to be visible; to stand up and be counted by sharing our thoughts with the world. This can be a challenge because it requires courage and a degree of confidence. It is no surprise that at the root of the word courage is coeur the French word for heart. Leaders need passion to sustain them through the lonely hours of the early morning.

Last year I was talking to a leader that I know and they mentioned that they had gone through a tough patch with their business; that it had been really slow for a few months. We discussed the impact of this on them briefly and then, I was asked not to disclose this to anyone else in a group that we both belonged to. The person suddenly felt vulnerable. I was saddened by their decision because they are highly experienced and well known. I thought that if they could have shared that information with others, it could have given those who were new to the profession such insights as well as making that appear more real to folk. It was an opportunity to build deeper connection. When we own our shadows, it helps others to find their light.

That is why I urge you to bring your whole self to everything you do. It is all about being real rather than editing out the bits that you believe don’t fit or people can’t handle or whatever other excuse you make for yourself. When we censor ourselves then there is very little transparency. Instead there is opacity because our light is not shining brightly; others notice this and quite often dim theirs too in order to blend in.

Standing in your truth is tough. In the words of the video we are the lone nut until someone joins us and encourages others to follow. Once there are two followers, it does not take much to create a tribe.

First Follower

I really like this video because it shows how outmoded the old paradigm of leadership is. The hierarchical command and control model is dead because it does not take into account the wealth of information we have available at our finger tips and it stifles innovation. Alternatively, if as leaders we nurture our first few followers, it won’t be long before we have a tribe. In other words it is all about engagement because with that you have loyalty and eventually a movement.

What does inspiring leadership look like in 2013?
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2 thoughts on “What does inspiring leadership look like in 2013?

  • February 14, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I have shared this video before as it is a great demonstration of leadership and the importance of those early adopters (followers)… Leadership in my opinion does not mean one has to stand on the podium (finding someone who would like to do that might be a positive alternative to getting the message out there), but it does require participation, it requires action and demonstration of what is to be done so that others are able to follow…

    Nurturance, support, giving not taking, honesty, integrity and being authentic and congruent in all aspects of your life… now these are the attributes of someone we can trust, admire, look up to and follow… sadly these are not the qualities of our leaders today and why they are soon to be replaced…

    • February 20, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      I love your take on leadership Chris it really resonates with me and I appreciate you taking the time to comment on the blog too. One thought however and that is that the leaders we have today are there because we and others voted them. To blame them for the mess we are in is to see the symptoms rather than the cause. The root of the problem lies in the level of disconnection that exists on earth. This sense that we are separate from each other and other species whereas in fact the opposite is true. As Gandhi said over 50 yrs ago we are all part of the one ecosystem. The sooner we feel this connection, the sooner stuff will start to shift.

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