“There is a difference between knowing a path and walking the path.” - Morpheus
A few months back, I wrote a post addressing the debate over whether leaders are born or made. My thesis was that we all have leadership qualities but they only surface when we face a challenge/situation we feel passionately about. Some experience this as a kid, some do so when they are past retirement. Then again, a President experiences it in very visible fashion everyday while a father may experience it invisible to anyone but him. Same applies to you and your teammates.
That, however, left me with a different question. We are always told that we should be “good” leaders, that we should ensure impartiality and that we should help others see the glass as half full. The reason these are easier said than done is that few truly understand how to do to the above.
This 2-part series deals with the how of it all, takes cues from philosophy, psychology and even religion, and is open to improvization.
Part 1: Lead as a parent, as a colleague and as an example
“Good” is relative. It is difficult to lay down an absolute definition that could hold in all kinds of situations. It is subject to our own judgment. So when we are asking one to showcase good leadership, we are really asking one to showcase good judgment. That comes from Character.
The single biggest difference between a Dark age and an Enlightened one – as highlighted in most of world's religions – is that people in the latter age value good character. For instance, they are not okay with putting someone down, with not taking accountability or with not caring for the larger picture. I talked about the importance of character in a recent promotional video for the Smith MBA at Queen’s University, displayed further below. But how do we achieve it?
This is how the morals we preach to ourselves, our children or our colleagues eventually define our character and our leadership. More importantly, this is why having too many, ambiguous or less understood “moral” guidelines do not help either an individual or a company. Understanding the above chain of cause and effect helps narrow our focus. For instance, it explains why guilt is overridden not by lectures of “don’t feel guilty” or “don’t make mistakes again.” Guilt is overcome by humility – an acceptance that mistakes happen, often as a matter of serendipity, and a sound judgment of which mistakes are avoidable and how. And that can make a big difference since guilt is one of the unspoken, under-the-radar, secretive but powerful motivators for so many decisions employees make every day.
A major difference between a dark age of human era and an enlightened one is that we value and aspire towards having a good character, and that we can constructively define what “good” entails in a way that does not bring harm to an external entity or to self.
This chain is at the root of a company’s culture. And while such culture often stems down from leadership, we can change a lot even on an individual note at the bottom of the hierarchical pyramid. Sticking to the above chain will help others feel less insecure around us and eventually around anything else. Its ripple effect will not necessarily be visible, but it will be definitive - on teamwork, on the sub-cultures within a firm, and (if followed by parents for an entire generation of children a.k.a. the future employees) on the world.
In the next part, we look at how to lead by making the buck stop at us. To do that, the glass must first be half full rather than half empty. And that shall bring us to a paradox of quantum physics. That’s Part 2.
Be the best you can be,
© 2015 Malay Upadhyay