Leadership is elusive. In a previous article , I stress the fact that leadership is more of an art than a science; that it is more intimately tied to the individual. Vision, personality, style and ways of doing things are all but a few examples of leadership traits that people refer to. But what is it that makes someone be more to us than just the role or title or even the skills deployed to perform? What is it that elevates individuals to the status of leader? There are thousands of books written on the subject and countless training programs offering to learn about it. But is it a skill? Is it a skill-set? Is it a human trait? Is it knowledge, drive, courage or any other specific attribute that makes a leader a leader? Tough question to answer, isn’t it?
As stated at the outset, leadership is elusive. So, what is it that makes a leader? What is it that makes people think that this or that person is a leader? Truth is, we will probably never know for sure what the magic of leadership is because there is magic involved. Many have attempted to dissect it and define it with the same result: an elusive definition such as leadership requires the innate ability to lead… Of course, each and every one of us may formulate a personal answer. We all do it and it is likely to be somewhat different an answer from one person to the other, which makes leadership even more elusive to define. But no one would deny that leadership exists. It is real and we all manage to identify it in our lives. It can be found in personal or professional lives and it is portrayed in movies and studied in universities. So then again, what do people think of leaders that makes them so? Perhaps there is one key element that sticks out and is present in all kinds of leadership. But the answer, even partial, may surprise you…
The essence of leadership is not to be found in the leaders themselves. People don’t think about the leaders they choose to follow. They feel something. Whatever connects with us when we meet a leader translates into an emotion: we are inspired, mobilized, reassured, empowered and so on. We fear less the future and wish to take on the challenges to make the journey to success. We feel more confident about our capacity to contribute, to make things happen. We feel something. In that sense, leadership is to be found in what we feel. We experience leadership through the emotions triggered by the leader and this can happen in many different ways that can be studied and analyzed. But it all boils down to how we end up feeling about a leader. As such, one key ingredient to a leader’s leadership is what happens within us.
Okay, this all sounds almost esoteric. It’s not. Take for instance a simple meeting; be it a one-on-one meeting or a group meeting. If the person responsible for leading the meeting goes over a series of objectives, listens to you and tells you what to do in a mechanical way, perhaps this would be good management. You leave the meeting with a “to do” list or key information to go about your business. This is useful but it is hardly leadership. However, let’s say you are going to the same meeting but the person leading it and going through the same topics does it in a way that makes you feel you are better than you thought; that you can achieve more than you dreamt of; that you are a very important piece of the solution being discussed. You will leave that meeting inspired to give your best, to go beyond what the objectives are, to believe that the future can be better. The way I describe leadership here may seem over-the-top. But the point is simply that you leave the meeting with a good feeling; with the right feeling. That’s how leadership anchors itself.
Of course, there is much more to leadership. But this is a very important point: effective leadership connects with people’s emotions, dreams, feelings, self-esteem, values and the like. Leadership-making foundations are in people’s feelings. Not in the leader. What is within the leader is the means to trigger those feelings; whether consciously or unconsciously. The unconscious part of leadership capacity is probably the reason why sometimes leaders don’t fully understand why people follow them as they trigger something in people without necessarily intending it as such. That’s why authenticity is becoming such an important factor of leadership success. People wish to feel that they connect with the real person and not with a fabricated persona. Digging deeper into what leadership is all about and how it naturally emerges in authentic leaders would certainly be fascinating. What are your thoughts on authenticity and leadership? Write to me @ firstname.lastname@example.org as your ideas will fuel more discoveries that will be good ones for future articles…
In the meantime, may you be well, may you be happy.