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Time To Get Off Your Ass And Lead (Yourself)

by Miki Saxon

There are many lessons to be learned from the current economic crisis, but one of the most important is that we the people should stop following and start leading ourselves.

In other words, we each need to take responsibility for our own actions and think critically about the words and actions of those in positional leadership roles.

In business, we need to rid ourselves of the idea that positional leaders don’t need management skills or that managers don’t lead.

Jim Stroup points out in numerous posts that “No one has proven that leadership is different from management, much less that it is a characteristic inherent in individuals independently of the context in which those individuals operate, one that they carry with them from one organization to another and which they then instill into groups otherwise bereft of it.”

We need to stop defining leaders based on their vision and skill at influencing people to follow them.

A comment left on a Washington Post column by Steve Pearlstein regarding the leadership failure that led to the current economic crisis neatly sums up the problem with that definition.

“What a great summary of the economic problem. However this was not a lack of leadership. Defining leadership as influencing people to move in a specific direction, the financial and economic elite successfully led the country into the economic disaster. The problem was a lack of management that failed to identify the signs of the pending disaster.”

Mike Chitty’s team approach is an unlikely solution since you can’t mandate that whichever [leader or manager] is superior will listen to or act on the ideas of the subordinate, while making them equals is rarely successful.

We need to lead ourselves and stop waiting for someone else to show us how, tell us why or lead our actions. 99% of us know what’s good—not just for ourselves, but for the world.

We especially need to stop

  • putting ideology ahead of success;
  • avoiding accountability by citing all those whose lead we followed;
  • excusing our own unethical behavior on the basis that others do the same thing; or
  • believing that [whatever] is OK, because our religion forgives our actions.

Everyone cleaning up their own back yard will alleviate a large part of the problem, and then we can work together for the good of everyone, not just “people like us.”

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: flickr

2 Responses to “Time To Get Off Your Ass And Lead (Yourself)”
  1. Ravi TangriNo Gravatar Says:

    I agree with you that personal leadership has to come first. Absolutely. In the past, most people have abdicated the journey of personal leadership in favour of following a positional leader.

    Now, with respect to the leaders who have a vision and influence others to do that. I think that is a fallacy that we have lived with – that only one person can have the vision, which dis-empowers everyone else, and perhaps the times we find ourselves in now are testament to the failure of that model. It’s not just the economy – our health care systems and educational systems are broken and unsustainable. We’re at the brink of doing irreversible ka-ka to our planet. You name it. It’s kind of hard to deny that the emperor has no clothes. It’s everywhere you look.

    I think that this time is a unique opportunity for us to start to explore and uncover what leadership truly is. Yes, first it starts with personal leadership and personal responsibility. And it goes beyond that.

    To me, leadership in organizations and in society is not about having a vision and selling everyone on that vision. We are in new territory Nobody knows the map, and our past experience ain’t too helpful.

    Leadership in this new world is about stepping out of your ego to admit that you only have part of the puzzle, and then inviting and engaging all the other key players to have the real, meaningful conversations we need to have to co-create a way forward. It’s about creating a safe environment that supports others in stepping forward and growing their personal leadership to create a leader-ful organization.

    I’m actually very optimistic about this. Human nature sometimes needs to go to the brink to stop doing what we’ve always done, even when we know it’s not good or it doesn’t work. That’s abundantly clear now, and maybe we needed this pain to be greater than the pain of changing from ‘what we’ve always done’.

    Yes, there’s a lot of pain and turmoil going on and I sympathize with those who are at the heart of that. At the same time, this is about all of us taking both accountability and responsibility for moving forward, and that’s a pretty exciting time to be living in. The wisdom is within us, and it’s time to bring it forth.

  2. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Ravi, I agree with everything you say except “in this new world;” I think what you describe was just as viable in the “old world.” Sadly, people have short memories, so it may not stick.

    But we can hope!

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