Leadership is…

I have spent the last 3 years working in two very different small businesses.  In both instances, I served in a leadership role as we designed and implemented changes to ensure the financial viability of the organizations.  In that context I have been part of many discussions with owners, team members, prospective team members, soon to be ex-team members, clients, suppliers, business consultants, business partners, prospects, and the list goes on.

In those situations, you are faced with trying to have multiple conversations with various stakeholders about why they should want to be a “part of the team”.  It becomes evident that as a “leader”, the only thing you can do is influence.  Those who believe they can “make things happen” are both mistaken and misguided because the best you can do is influence and this can be further described as disturbing the system.  (You disturb the system because each interaction you have with another person carries on far beyond just that interaction because the person takes the energy from the conversation further out into the system – like ripples caused by throwing a stone into a pond)

This means that every time you interact with someone, you impact them in either a positive or negative manner.  The one thing I am certain of is that when you are in a leadership role, there is never a neutral interaction…regardless of how insignificant or inconsequential you thought the discussion might have been.  When things are changing within an organization, every word spoken (or not spoken) and every action taken (or not taken) means something (whether it does or not).

This all boils down to a very binary decision each leader makes hundreds of times each day…do I build up or tear down.  There are certain principles I adhere to and one of my favorites is Occam’s Razor.  Several definitions are listed below.

  • “The simplest explanation for some phenomenon is more likely to be accurate than more complicated explanations.”
  • “If you have two equally likely solutions to a problem, choose the simplest.”
  • “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct.”

This is why I believe that leadership is…INFLUENCE.  What naturally follows that is whether we are going to influence positively or negatively (build up or tear down).  We can speak of all of the other pieces and parts of leadership (there are far too many to mention here), but all of them depend on the relationships of the people involved and that is based largely on how people feel about their leaders.  It is not what they think about them but what they feel about them that drives behavior and performance.

Again, I am not trying to oversimplify leadership (although I think that is admirable goal) but I do believe that if we view each leadership opportunity through the bifocals of building up or tearing down we will be rewarded with better results as those who look to us for support and direction will feel better about what we are doing and where we are going.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Leadership is…

  1. I have only a few questions. Are you saying that a leader in doesn’t “make things happen”? That they just influence the rest of the team? Are you saying that the action of throwing a stone onto a pond doesn’t create the waves it merely influences the water? Leaders are just that, they lead. Many times by example (which oddly enough is by their ACTIONS). I agree that to be a great leader you must influence, but I also say you must be action oriented.

    • Perry

      Gary, I think a leader most certainly makes things happen but that they only do that through the work of others. I also believe that there is a difference between making things happen and controlling outcomes. I do not think that we have control and can know with certainty that “if I do x, y will happen”. We work in complex adaptive systems (like an ecosystem) so our actions have downstream impacts that may or may not be what we intended so we need to be aware of that and understand that sometimes when we throw the rock in the pond the ripples may be larger than intended and upset someone’s boat.

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