In my travels and dealings within the corporate universe, as well as in the political, academic, and social environments, this question pops up regularly and does not want fade away.
So much so, that in my lectures to entrepreneurs, executives, and professionals, as well as to young people at the start of their careers, I like to provoke the audience with the following question: “Is leadership changing?!?”
More often than not, the audience is divided – many think so, many think not. Then, I give an answer that leaves everyone quite bewildered: “Well, all of you are right!” As a consequence, I see a bunch of perplexed faces!
In truth, I state the following dogma: “Leadership is indeed changing … in its technique, but not in its essence.” For, in my opinion, leadership, ever since the first leader appeared among the cavemen, has distinguished individuals with the following characteristics, or better, core essences:
1. Has VISION (Sees what others haven’t yet seen!)
2. Takes DECISIONS (Especially when choosing People!)
3. Helps to INSPIRE (So that each one can realize their full potential!)
Are these crucial qualities or not? From the beginnings of civilization until today, the leader, regardless of whatever sector or area of activity he is from, must have, at a minimum, these vital aptitudes to successfully exercise his leadership role.
On the other hand, the way or techniques of exercising leadership have changed … and continue to change.
In the past, the manner of leading was primarily focused on Talent Management, which leads me to the image of an “Orchestra Maestro”, whose main role is to conduct a group of musicians so that everything is rigidly within the program, that is, in “perfect harmony”, and within the right timing, as the word MANAGEMENT means “the act or action of managing, administering, regulating, over- seeing, directing …”.
Currently, the approach of performing this job takes me more towards the image of a “Rock Band Leader”, where the leader of the ensemble is not necessarily the best guitarist, drummer, or keyboard player.
His part is that of, granted that he has chosen the “aces” for each musical instrument, getting the group to work together by giving their best, that is, he takes on the role of Talent Coordination. The word COORDINATION, in turn, means “the act of coordinating, concatenating, organizing, harmonizing …”
Does this make sense or not?
In the past, executives normally pursued bigger and better material rewards (bonuses, stock options, status symbols), as well as professional advances (career, promotions, titles).
Nowadays in the digital age, there is a pursuit for more meaning or a greater purpose in work which dovetails to one´s life mission, to communal recognition, to personal fulfillment, and to collaboration instead of competition. The “carrots” or rewards of yore, given the current reality, will not necessarily work today. The opposite is also true.
And what are the characteristics or qualities that a true leader should have in order to stand out from the crowd? Valid as much today as in the past, these are:
• Willingness to lead (It is much easier and more comfortable to be led than to lead.);
• Desire to excel (The leader is never satisfied with what he has already achieved; he does not hang on to the status quo.);
• Charisma and great ego (Charisma is equal to magnetism, as it helps to attract people. And if a person does not have a big ego, he probably will not even want to get out of bed in the morning).
Having said that, here I open a parenthesis in each of the above items to clearly show how a mediocre leader more focused on oneself can transform himself into an exemplary leader dedicated towards the common welfare:
• Willingness to lead (but always based on VALUES!);
• Desire to excel (but for the benefit of EVERYONE!);
• Charisma and great ego (but WITHOUT using them to antagonize people!).
By means of a chart, I point out some basic differences in the initiatives that separate a mere ADMINISTRATOR from a true LEADER.
Furthermore, a Leader can only claim to be fulfilled if he bases his life upon three pillars:
• One who does not know … and asks.
• One who knows … and teaches.
• One who teaches … and practices! (In other words: Walk the Talk!)
As a matter of interest, how many people in prominent places do you know who actually live within this context? I believe that Leadership is not a question or function of status, nor of title, nor of inheritance, nor of bravado … but rather of credibility, influence, mastery, wisdom, attitude.
In closing, I share a pertinent phrase from our well-known poet, Mário Quintana, from whom I respectfully took the liberty of exchanging a word (BOOK for LEADER) from his brilliant poem, so that it could be used within the context of this article: “A LEADER does not change the world. Who changes the world are the people.
A Leader only changes the people.” Therefore, dear reader, exercise your Leadership with Wisdom (the supreme Wealth we have) and with Responsibility (which does not mean only duty or obligation, but to give Response to your Abilities, that is, realize your Potential!).
START BY BEING A LEADER OF YOURSELF!