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Do we need a better definition?
So what do leaders do?
What do they pay attention to?
Leadership is for everyone. Not just for those whose job title says that's what they 'do'.
The word makes it sound like something you can hold onto, but it's not. It's a very slithery process and through your fingers in a trice.
It is the non-stop, all the time, moment by moment, in every situation, active, alert response to being alive. There are no constants. Except for the constant barrage of signals, inside you or your organisation and between you and the "outside" world.Do we need a better definition?
There are as many formal definitions as there are people who write on the subject.
One will say that it is infusing meaning and purpose into the lives of the people you lead and serve; another that it is influencing people to make a difference; another that it is mobilising people to tackle tough problems.
Each definition has its power. We leave it there for now. We are aiming to open up, rather than close down, any discussion.
It is also bound up with the exercise of power - exercised through such qualities as decisiveness, gravitas, charisma, persuasiveness, judgment, spiritual development and adventurousness.
One thing, however, is common to all. Leaders do things.
They live in the land of verbs, where the language is that of action.
Let's start at ground zero. A leader knows how to pay attention and what to pay attention to.
Get the quality of your attention right and you stand a good chance of making the right choices. (Let's not forget our amazing ability to screen out all the signals that might cause problems)
If you want to become a more effective leader, you need to expand, or refine, your ability to pay attention to what is happening - not only around you, but also inside you.
This will give you new information and you need to fit this new information into new patterns of understanding.
Simple. But also challenging. Your views about how the world works and what makes you tick will be under attack.
Learning to lead requires working at the edge, at the limit of your known world. That is, after all, the place where growth occurs. And that is where all those who demonstrate leadership are to be found.
What do they pay attention to?
Everything we do reveals our underlying beliefs. Techniques and skills only make sense when inspired by these beliefs. We struggle hard to learn a skill and then to loosen ourself from the grip of what we have learnt, to live according to our beliefs.
So, what are these beliefs? What do we stand for? What is so vital to us that, without it, life is meaningless? A powerful leader will know.
No set of techniques is right for all situations. So as a minimum, we will be looking for certain attitudes - to include flexibility, openness, curiosity, detachment (and engagement) and what we might call 'beginner's mind'.B. Skill
Skill is developed by increasing awareness of the interaction of two different sorts of knowledge and capability. The first is personal, internal and subjective. The second is the impersonal, external, and objective - professional.
1. The first is grounded in the physical and deals with what you see, hear and feel, what tone you adopt, how aware you are of the impact of your (and another's) presence, what value you place on fleeting impressions, the imagination or gut feelings, or how you handle fear. This is the qualitative world of experiences, the senses and perceptions and is unique to everyone.
We are as happy to coach one person as we are to put together comprehensive leadership development programmes. Different individuals and different groups call for different stimuli.
A tailored programme could include events such as seminars on specific chosen topics, development centres, coaching and mentoring, 360 - degree feedback, psychometric testing and Action Learning Sets.
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