By Erin T. Rocchio, MPOD
It won’t take you long if you look even for a brief minute. Libraries upon libraries are written every day on the subject of leadership. Steps for success, tips to remember, things to do/not do, people to emulate… it’s all there. It’s exhaustive. And exhausting.
It’s an overwhelming notion, really, the idea of influencing another. We pray that we don’t screw them up, or screw big things up like entire corporations. We want so badly to mean something, to make our mark in our insanely short time here. For the bold among us, that often looks like sticking our necks out when others won’t. When things get scary or blurred, the brave among us step in to offer what we can for the benefit of our colleagues and friends. Doing the best with what we have… doing what we can for the benefit of others.
As you may know, title does not equal leader. Authority does not a leader make. Of course, there are incumbent responsibilities with any role. These are the activities an effective leader must do to ensure the well being of her/his people or company. You can read a mound of books on that. All valid and mostly all true.
All the while, the character of a leader must count for something, too, right? Who that leader is as a person? Yes! Of course it does. You can study up on that, too. Typically, this wisdom shows up not in the business section of the bookstore but the self-help or spirituality sections. Business and life wisdom – would we dare? Ask anyone who has been leading for a significant amount of time and they will tell you that what makes them effective is not a simple, one-size-fits-all, disconnected approach. Rather, her/his leadership journey has been a collection of experiences, teachers, insights on the intellectual realm and psychological/emotional/spiritual one. As they’ve acquired knowledge, they’ve also had to strip away parts of a façade to uncover who they really are. The best lead from that aware place – fully embracing their intellect, their action, their passions, and their purpose. That is the bedrock of FMG Leading’s Wisdom Leading™ approach, which holds the Doing and Being capacities of a leader as equally sacrosanct. A wise leader understands and performs in both dimensions, time and again, regardless of context.
So, what does this actually look like? On the Doing side, there are five domains a leader must master. First, know your business. Be qualified to be in the room. If you already have the title, it’s likely that you’ve got this one mostly nailed already. And, we can always learn more about our organization, market, industry. Stay hungry here. Next, demonstrate strategic thinking. Do you see the big picture? Do you make sense for others about how your work, team, or organization fits into the whole? If not, this is an important piece to develop. You can’t lead others with your head in the weeds.
Third, others must want to follow you in the ways both you and they need. In other words, you must enable committed actions from your people. If they don’t see value in what you’re up to, or don’t find a place for themselves in that vision, they won’t buy in. Fourth, leaders are accountable for the growth of their teams through active development. Are you providing what your team members need through delegation, mentoring, and stretch assignments? Put simply, are they learning under your watch?
Finally, your words, values and actions must line up. Demonstrating integrity is critical to your legitimacy. Do you mean what you say, and do you do what you say you will? Even more, do your actions match what you say matters to you? For most of us, this is never a state of perfection, but rather a constant source of watchfulness and diligence. Your integrity is all you have as leader – manage it vigilantly. Seriously.
What about this Being business then? With all those qualities, you’d be in great shape to influence plenty and make a positive difference. However, most of us have had bosses who were great delegators, strategists or communicators, but were really crummy people. What you do alone won’t get you to leadership stardom. You must also be great.
When we say Being, here’s what we mean. First, it means exhibiting an open, inclusive worldview that considers others’ experiences and beliefs as equally as valid as your own. You are willing to listen and value someone else’s truth. Second, it means you generate innovative ideas. Are you willing to challenge paradigms and offer breakthrough solutions to entrenched problems? Are you willing to stick your neck out? Third, a truly effective leader knows what his/her strengths are and knows how to bring them fully to the role. Your unique “genius” – talents, expertise, and passions – is clear and expressed for the benefit of those around you. If others can’t ID your genius, it’s likely you haven’t discovered it yet. Go, now, and find it.
Next, an effective leader shows up “all in.” They are engaged, committed, and find ways to ensure they can remain so for the long-term. They nurture their personal wellbeing so they feel their best, and thus give their best, everyday. Last, the most remarkable leaders are in the room, in the moment. Mindful, aware, and thoughtful. They practice a state of presence. They know how to still their minds in chaos, cultivate calm and clarity when it’s needed most. They can distill what matters into a simple, clear path forward because they’re awake to it. At their core – and at the core of Wisdom Leading – is a reverence for Mindful Presence – that state of being that spiritual traditions tout as the way to the Divine. Wise leaders know that it is the way to access their best stuff. All “woo-woo” aside, this is the juice at the heart of it all.
There is no great leading without wisdom, without acknowledging that what’s at the very heart of who we are is exactly what others need and want to follow. Our actions simply express what we believe inside. At FMG Leading, we say leading is “building capacity of self and others to achieve breakthrough results.” The process is explicitly external – i.e. results matter! – and internal, so does who you are. No one ever said being a wise and great leader was for the faint of heart. Thank God it’s not.
In tending to our full capacity as a human being, may this sacred relationship between the leader and the led give us access to all we believe is possible. In it, may we find our way.