Leadership: Not just super heroes and pixie dust


The next super hero

What makes a great leader?  Lots of people have tried to nail it down; in fact, Amazon.com has 84,000 books currently listed on leadership.  Much of what is written on the subject tries to get to a simple formula.  Do X + Y + Z and you’ll be a rock star.  In the real world, formulaic leadership is neither realistic, nor desirable.

Leadership is found in unexpected places, in remarkable ways, and at all levels of the organization.  Discovering leadership is a bit like finding your soul mate.  You have a vague idea of what you’re looking for, but when you finally find it it’s not who or what you expected.

Every day there are new ways to share, connect and lead.  You can no longer pretend to be one person at home and another at work.  With greater connectedness and transparency, we don’t want to work for someone pretending to be Jack Welch or Abraham Lincoln or Madeline Albright.  We want a leader who is honest and brilliant and imperfectly who they are.  Fortunately, since you’re driving the boat you get to pick what sort of captain you want to be.

Over my career I’ve jotted down ideas, traits, even quotes on leadership that I personally find inspiring or that resonate with the type of leader I want to be.  A fair chunk of this list even comes from folks I consider terrible leaders (as in, run screaming from the building sort of crazy).  Still valuable experiences because they showed me who I don’t want to be – ultimately in all situations we can find something to learn.

It’s always about the people

First and most importantly, leadership is about the people. No matter who you’re dealing with it is always about your how you make the other person feel, not the end deliverable. You need to adjust your style to how people are persuaded or how they learn. For example, marketing managers need to work with both sales and technology very closely. Sales is typically very relationship focused and technology is typically very data or results focused. Using the same approach with both is unlikely to work. Everyone ultimately wants to feel that their ideas are heard and considered, they are valued for what they do and they are contributing to moving the business forward. If you always focus on developing a relationship that will outlast your tenure at your current organization, you’re already well ahead of the curve.

I’ll be sharing my full list over time through my blog. Would love to hear your thoughts on what makes a great leader or how you strive to be a better leader every day.

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