Pick an issue that you are deeply concerned about and I would guess that it is on this list, in one form or another.
I am somewhat biased, but I see #7 as the most critical item …
We can solve problems related to inequality, economics, culture, and nature, given good and trusted leadership. However, without trusted leadership, we are screwed … to use the professional term.
Unfortunately, this concern about value-driven leadership dovetails with another issue often discussed in leadership development circles: Leadership is frequently discounted as a discrete and learnable skill. I imagine many reasons exist for this, but here are five which I know are part of the general equation:
1) Effective leadership often looks easy from the outside . . .
When something looks easy, many people think it IS easy. Leadership suffers the same image problem as does other helping professions (yes, I believe that leadership is a helping profession), where true skill comes across as almost casual action.
2) Many people have no particular experience actually leading others . . .
Without experience, we often use superficial things, like titles or positions, to rate leaders. If you do not know the complexity involved in influencing others positively, you may not appreciate what goes into the small part of leadership that is directly observed.
3) Some leaders are poor, but talk a good game . . .
They snow us with charismatic personalities, so we do not think to look more objectively at what they do. For examples, see “Politician” of any party or persuasion, now or in the past, from this country or elsewhere. I’m sure other examples exist of poor leaders who get away with it, but this genre is just too perfect an example not to use..
4) Some leaders are really nice people, which tends to deflect serious analysis of their abilities and performance . . .
Critical thinking is a difficult skill to use most of the time, and when someone appears to be a good person, we tend to give them more slack and benefit of our doubt. Personality can trump achievement sometimes.
5) Quick fixes are popular … True leadership is a slow and developmental process . . .
We as a society have little patience for long processes, but enjoy the fantasy that we can just pull something off in a heartbeat. Leadership is not like public image, which actually can be destroyed in the amount of time it takes to post a YouTube video or a snarky photo with a catchy phrase attached.
6) Some leaders may be in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons . . .
Leadership is not a “one-size-fits-all” type of ability. One person may excel at leadership during a crisis and great upheaval, while another can keep up the steady, but lengthy process of maintenance which stabilizes an organization for the long haul. Tools like the DiSC are of great help in beginning the discussion about different forms of leadership.
7) Leadership models believed by some may be outdated . . .
For example, with number 2 on the Pew list, some folks at the top of a very small economic tip probably justify their relative wealth by assuming that the “Great Man” theory of leadership is working in their case. When an increasing number struggle, while a few thrive, those few need to give some reasons why things are the way they are.
While most serious leadership development folks believe that leadership is a learnable skill, which includes knowledge acquisition combined with mentored experience, some people find it in their own best interests to believe that destiny and birthright plays a larger role.
Tomorrow, I’m going to share some more specific thoughts around value and leadership. All leadership is NOT created equal and our ethics do matter.
Considering the state of leadership and what needs to happen in the Heartland ….