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.”
Image credit: flickr