All entries for Wednesday 09 February 2011
February 09, 2011
I'm talking about leadership of course ;-) I think most of us on MBE agree that you can't teach it, it's experiential as Paul said. Reading back through some of the other blogs, I see some people feel that it is some kind of innate quality you are either born with or not. I completely disagree! I think the truth is somewhere in the Nature vs Nurture argument that Kieran brought to the fore, which is an argument worth having.
Let us assume for a minute, that you're not born with it, and it can't be taught. How the hell are you supposed to get it, or be it?! Well, just because it can't be taught, that's not to say it can't be learned... It goes back to experiential learning, i.e. learning from experiences. Nobody is born, and then starts showing other babies how to stand and walk, or say their first word. These things are picked up from our very first leaders - our parents, and others who care for us as infants. You can't lead without first being lead. If you will agree that nobody is born with knowledge or innate understanding of the universe, then it follows that you must learn things in order for people to consider you to be someone worth following. And if you know nothing when you are born, what is it that makes you a leader? Sure, there are some genetic traits and characteristics that might predispose you towards leading, but in the end, we are all nothing but the sum of our experiences. As Awal says, leadership is all about the ability to learn from any situation and implement your learning. And so, we arrive back at PDSA! Hehe! My theory is that great leaders can probably do this better than most.
I wish I had more time to develop this, maybe you guys can help me if you find the time...
To finish, here is my personal definition of leadership, refined from the one that my group collectively created. I'm settling on it for now, but I expect it will change as I do. But for now, it is right, because it is right for ME!
"The art of forming a vision and influencing others towards sharing it, such that they think and act to help make it a reality."
By hearing what others think!
I want to start today, by talking about myself... I led my team in the Winning Strategy exercise. In the style of Vineet Nayar (who I find impressive, and a great example of an unconventional but brilliant-because-of-it leader) I wanted to post their feedback here, because I am interested in what other leaders were told, and I'm hoping you will post. I wonder where the common ground will be... I also wanted to be brave, and put this out there, so people can tell me in the future if they think I've improved or not. For the sake of not typing 5 sheets worth of comments, with differing opinions, I have tried to capture the sense of what was said while condensing. I feel I am being objective, but this may have introduced a degree of bias. If any of you feel I am being too generous, please say so! I can take it ;-)
I was told:
- Introduced the task well.
- Regularly got the opinions of others, and took these in/responded to/noted them. Quite receptive.
- Kept a close eye on time, and managed the necessary tasks well within it. Reminded team of times regularly.
- Was cool/calm under pressure. Showed he felt it, but also that the pressure was on the team, not just him.
- Delivered a successful outcome.
- Had the support and engagement of most followers.
- Impressive style, with a very balanced, democratic approach.
- Indirect leadership/He's a thought leader.
Areas for Improvement
- Needs to make sure everyone is engaged.
- Should try to give more direction and a vision from the outset, and show the strategy to get there.
- Make more effort to directly assess people's skills at the beginning, and make use of their strengths.
- Easily swayed by arguments. Needs to be 'flexibly' firmer with decision-making and own opinion/vision.
My own opinions on this? Well, I was reasonably happy with my performance. I think it was a very difficult task, but only because of the lack of time. I made the point that what we did in an hour and a half, you would probably have a few weeks to do in reality. One interesting thing: most of the group thought I was very calm. In reality, I was going a bit crazy in my head! I didn't enjoy having to try and pick one strategy over another, without having the time to fully understand any of them, and this was made harder as most of the team had conflicting views about what was the best way to go.
Ultimately, I took everything in, and made the decision myself about two minutes before I had to present it. The time pressure forced me to lead instinctively rather than methodically. So, not much time to assess skills, or organise my own thoughts. It was uncomfortable, as I am a reflector, but I guess that was the point. From what I can gather from the above, I do some things quite well. BUT, I need to work on being more direct when the time calls for it, outlining my vision so others have something to follow, and being more decisive, while making sure that everyone contributes, in the way that they best can.
Not bad for a few hours' learning, I think!