Statistically, business leaders read four- five books a month.
There are 20,000 books in print on leadership. Most make a yeoman’s effort to define leadership. Often by contrasting that to management.
Then, to add value to the droll reading, conflate the core of “leadership” to the holy grail of benefit: success. My definition of that hereinbelow.
Likely my readers have read beacoup on that.
I did starting decades ago; more recently while drafting this pieces. Many definitions remain bargain-counter circular: if one wants to go to the left, one must make a left turn.
Business leaders and readers of this composition, have long ago tired of leaders versus managers, visionaries versus machines that execute their visions, leadership by example/fear/autocracy/benevolence/laissez-faire/charisma/checkbook … and a truckload of “musts” and “must-nots”.
Except when leaders “just don’t get it.”
Often, copious reporting from superbly educated and qualified “management” notwithstanding, leaders are confronted with: sometimes things that don’t make sense, just don’t make sense. That is a compelling inflection point that separates the proverbial wheat from the chaff in defining leadership: the quintessential opposite of homogenizing. Genuine leaders conclude: there must be something we just don’t know. Yet.
Then, they pursue at least two of my four pillars of success. More hereinbelow.
72 Things A Leader Is Not.
If this piece were bereft of salient thoughts proffered anecdotally, it would not be my writing.
Some years ago, being somewhat drug phobic and having witnessed the human tragedy of substance abuse and addiction, I added a day-long seminar on substance abuse to the mandatory management development program for the top 140 “leaders” and managers in our company. The company was inching to five hundred million in revenue; headed to a profitable billion.
I engaged a universally acknowledged expert in the US on substance abuse. We spent a day chatting. Next day, we started with the thirteen senior executives in the company assembled in a conference room. My long introduction focused on his preeminent credentials and the benefits our company and we, individually, will derive from his wisdom.
The attendees introduced themselves: something about their professional backgrounds, jobs and personal lives.
Our speaker started with: “Thank you Steve for the kind words and very good to meet you all.” After a long pause, he looked around the room with deliberate lingering and pronounced: “Four people in this room are substance abusers.”
One would think people at that level of leadership and senior management would be good at not squirming in their seats! Having been prompted beforehand by our speaker, and, confirming with him what I thought I saw after, I learned a relevant lesson in leadership.
Actually, two lessons. First, on critical observation: make that an intellectual process not entirely visceral.
Then: Know what you know! You know what you are: now be all that. As my brilliant and equally insufferable intellectual snob father pronounced: “If you cannot do it well, let somebody who can do it!” I might have been just out of diapers the first time I heard that.
Not parenthetic to this, two people of the referenced thirteen passed away as a result of substance abuse within three years.
A couple years after that substance abuse trip, I thought to leverage what I observed — as to process — to learn a bunch about leadership. Specifically, take advantage of smart and seasoned leaders to whom I presented my white-paper on leadership titled 72 Things A Leader Is Not. Full disclosure: all my reading to that point led me to understand how little I knew about leadership.
“72” things was deliberately overbroad. All the visible discomfort and “squirming” certainly qualified the “72” as to value/relevance. And signaled much about the attendees.
Traveling the next couple million life and “real” miles, I met a trickle of people I thought were indeed “leaders”. They helped me distill “72” down to a handful ON leadership. I admit to having struggled with those definitions since.
Thus, my subsequently delivered talks titled Leadership Du Jour.
Out with the Old, in with the New. – Nancy Robards Thompson, nearly 20 years ago.
Nouveau concept, somewhat balderdash as to leadership.
Living in our world of data onslaught at mind-bending speed and mind-blowing volume, leads to abandonment of fundamentals of prudent leadership.
Engenders fears of becoming roadkill on the no-speed-limits superhighway of perceived progress.
Do genuine leaders think: We ain’t going to do THIS better and bigger. Rather, we must do what is “hot”! Diversify far from our core competencies. Yes: we will do that better than the behemoths preceding us who have failed so mightily. Let’s forge ahead with [unwise] intemperance.
Destined to become talented beginners forever, doing what the whizzbang kids-du-jour are already doing.
You are quintessential leaders! You read all about the likes of you all over the place. You might have been lectured on that in school, by mentors, colleagues, uber-brained consultants. You are visionaries. Ordinary management is not for you.
I wonder about vision bereft of thoughtfully set and managed goals. Have you tried dreaming your way to success? How about entirely delegating your way to success?
A genuine AND successful leader today must exhibit vision. Also superior, classic management skills. Set ambitious yet attainable goals. If you are not clear where you are going, how are you going to get there? A leader must chart the path to those goals, create the decision-making and data analytics matrices, retain control. Delegate judiciously.
If a leader ignores the aforelisted, the “enterprise” may not recognize what it has achieved, where it has come up short or failed.
Success is the holy grail of leadership. Success is a complex paradigm. Unique to individuals, groups of people, populations, ethnicities, economics, geo-politically, and specific to businesses. Success is often dictated by necessity rather than choice. I humbly proffer that leaders would benefit from reading, if not entirely adopting my Four Pillars Of Success. You will find much on that in the post eponymously named elsewhere in this Blog.
More “when we meet.
©2022. Steven J. Manning. All rights reserved worldwide. Any reproduction, in part or whole, in any medium whatsoever, is strictly prohibited.