To lead or be led?

I reckon I will be working for at least another 20 to 25 years. I’m excited, honest.

I often wonder whether over the next two decades I need to lead more or be led more, or find a balance between the two? The answer to this question will probably dictate my career path. This excites me. However, I wonder what sort of leader I am, can be and will become. There are those amongst us that are natural born leaders, you read about them everyday, they have a presence about them, easy to spot. However, as the photo above notes, I do believe that one can learn to lead [not sure about the bloke in the white socks and sandals though? – Ed].

To date, during my 15-year short career, I have been fortunate enough to have been led and taught by a variety of great business leaders. Each has had their particular leadership style, nuances and each has inspired me to learn and to grow into the person I currently am. I’m not done yet, and there will be many more opportunities for me to both lead and be led throughout the remainder of my career.

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

I like this. From my experience to date, I have been influenced by many forms of leadership and opportunities to lead. We do not all have the chance to be put in leadership roles, so we have to lead from within the organisation, team, business etc. You can have a ‘leader’ impact, and not necessarily have a title to show for it.

If you take a moment to think about the various influences you have had, and the types of leaders you have had in your life. What sort of leader can you be? To help you out, the following has been quoted and taken from this great HBR article ‘How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge’. It outlines the attributes of individuals who can inspire others and multiply their impact. Have a careful read, which category or categories do you fall into? Let me know.

The Seer / these are individuals who are living in the future, who possess a compelling vision of “what could be.” As human beings, we’re constantly looking forward, and we love to sign on with individuals who are already working on “the next big thing.”

The Contrarian / persons free of the shackles of conventional wisdom and eager to help others stage a jailbreak. It’s exciting to be around these free-spirited thinkers who liberate us from the status quo and open our minds to new possibilities.

The Architect / these are adept at building systems that elicit contribution and facilitate collaboration. They leverage social technologies in ways that amplify dissident voices, coalesce communities of passion and unleash the forces of change.

The Mentor / rather than hoarding power, they give it away. Like Mary Parker Follett, the early 20th-century management pioneer, they believe the primary job of a leader is to create more leaders. To this end, they coach, tutor, challenge and encourage.

The Connector / with a gift for spotting the “combinational chemistry” between ideas and individuals. They help others achieve their dreams by connecting them with sponsors, like-minded peers, and complementary resources.

The Bushwhacker / they clear the trail for new ideas and initiatives by chopping away at the undergrowth of bureaucracy. They’re more committed to doing the right thing than to doing things right.

The Guardian / vigilant defenders of core values and enemies of expediency. Their unflinching commitment to a higher purpose inspires others and encourages them to stand tall for their beliefs.

The Citizen / true activists, their courage to challenge the status quo comes from their abiding commitment to doing as much good as possible for as many as possible. They are other-centered, not self-centered.

Me? I think I fall somewhere between the ‘Connector’ and the ‘Mentor’.

To end here is a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that resonates with me personally:

A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.”

Thanks for reading.



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