A recent Gallup survey found that only 18% of leaders in the workplace have a high degree of talent and capability to lead others. McKinsey’s recent study of 52,000 leaders and employees shows that 77- 86% of managers believed that they are talented leaders. This staggering difference in perception demonstrates almost accurately the Pareto principle of 20/80 but in a completely new way. 20% of leaders that highly qualify for a leadership position probably deliver 80% of the organizational results. Whilst 80% of leaders that do not highly qualify for their leadership role probably produce 20% of organizational results.
These findings also allude to a tremendous Awareness Gap that most leaders suffer from. Most leaders believe that they qualify for a leadership role whilst in reality only a small fraction of them actually do.
The rest live in “La La Land” and generate an unfortunate leadership environment for their employees.
Why is this so?
I believe that the whole area of leadership development in organizations is based on wrong assumptions.
Most leadership development programs are based on developing leadership behaviors, skills or situational solutions.
I seriously do not think this is how you develop leadership in organizations.
I believe leadership should start from the inside out. It is definitely not just based on behaviors or skills.
There are endless definitions of what leadership is. Here is my current view.
“Leadership is the ability to inspire, direct, engage and move people from where they are to where they can be.”
The most important thing to say about leadership is that:
leadership is a conscious choice.
It does not result from nominations or titles.
Management is granted through titles. Leadership is a conscious choice, an on- going choice, moment by moment.
It governs the way you think, act and respond in various situations.
Leadership has always been an area filled with mystery, vagueness and speculation.
• Are you born a leader? or do you become one?
• Do leaders respond to needs or situations in the right time and thus become leaders?
• Is leadership based on character or is it based on behavior?
• Can anyone become a leader given the right circumstances?
Few other areas have been as thoroughly researched as leadership, and many theories have been written on the subject.
Some of the theories are based on behaviors. For example, a leader who inspires trust, a leader who conveys vision, a leader who directs different systems, a leader who cultivates and develops talent (S. Covey 2008). The basic idea in this kind of approach is that when one performs these functions with others, they become leaders. Other approaches refer to leadership as a set of behaviors in specific situations i.e Situational Leadership (Blanchard).
Additional approaches are based on ethics or character, such as being a servant Leader or a virtuous Leader. These approaches claim that a leader has characteristics such as responsibility, initiative, determination etc. Once a person develops these characteristics, there is a chance that they will become a leader.
I would like to present a somewhat different approach to leadership. This approach is based upon the idea of Leadership from the Inside Out.
The basic idea is that leadership begins by taking inner positions vis-à-vis external reality. These positions often exist in the person before the external need arises.
Once the external need arises the basic internal positions of the person can turn them into a leader. When they care about the need or the situation, their leadership potential unfolds. It is as if it was there before waiting to be called to action.
According to this approach, the 5 basic positions of a person who can become a leader are:
1. I am responsible.
A person who will become a leader perceives themselves as responsible for the reality around them. They believe that even if they were not responsible for the circumstances, they are responsible for responding and taking care of the consequences. Their responsibility is not theoretical, but practical and immediate. They never point to other people as responsible. They do not blame or complain. They will take a responsible, practical position based on their ability and willingness to influence and solve the problems and situations they are confronted with.
Gandhi is a great example of a leader like this. Living in India, which was divided, split and ruled by the British Empire for hundreds of years, he assumed the responsibility of solving this situation and freeing India. This commitment led him to persist through a series of complex and sophisticated moves that lasted many years. Gandhi freed the great Indian nation by adopting this position.
2. I create future reality.
A person who will become a leader believes wholeheartedly that they can create a desired future reality. They do not focus on current reality, its difficulties and problems. They see current reality simply as a point of departure. Their responsibility is creative. They create a vision from this position. They create a desired future reality and then a path that will lead to this reality. Such a leader considers current reality as the raw material from which they can create a different one – a future reality. If this person is consistent and unwavering with their position, they will motivate others who want the same future reality.
A good example of such a leader is Martin Luther King, who had a vision of a different future reality for black people in the United States. At his starting point this vision seemed impossible to imagine. The reality this generated in the years that followed culminated in the election of Barack Obama for president.
3. I first lead myself
A person who will become a leader believes that the onus is on them. Leadership is a movement from existing structures and situations to future structures and situations. Movement necessitates energy and direction. A leader takes the responsibility to lead and every act of leadership begins with self-leadership. Therefore, a leader is first and foremost focused on leading themselves from undesired structures and realities to desired situations and structures. Out of this self-leadership they establish a leadership presence. This presence enables them, over time, to lead others as well towards a desired future reality. Thus, the leader becomes a personal example and a role model of what they stand for.
Examples of such leaders are: Mother Teresa, who grew up in the slums of Albania and became the leader of a global movement to aid lepers in India.
Jack Welch, who became CEO of GE after starting as an engineer, leading the company to spectacular results.
Lee Iacocca, who grew up as a poor kid in the Bronx and became the leader of Chrysler in its heyday.
Greta Thornburg, a young person, who by setting an example, became the leader of a global movement dedicated to saving the planet.
4. I learn and I develop constantly.
A person who will become a leader believes that they learn and develop as a way of life. They are open and accept learning, feedback, self-improvement and development. They do not become too personally or emotionally involved in success or failure but consider them as opportunities for growth. This position increases the trust they get from the people around them. It stimulates others to cooperate with them. It enables them to become leaders, and to grow and develop throughout their leadership years. Thus, they improve over time.
An example of such a leader is Nelson Mandela. As a young man Mandela was incarcerated as a terrorist for the ANC in Apartheid-ruled South Africa. During his years in prison, he studied and developed himself and became an ethical and moral leader who would bring the Apartheid government down non-violently.
5. There is potential greatness in myself and in others likewise.
A person who will become a leader believes that people have a greatness inside that may not have found its full expression yet. They see it in themselves and are therefore capable of growing, developing and becoming “greater”. They also see this potential in others.
A leader believes that people can develop and express more of themselves - more fulfillment, more contribution, and more motivation. Part of their leadership involves supporting and enabling people to express their greatness and potential on the path of creating a better reality.
This position also provides the people around the leader with a space to perform, contribute and develop. This becomes attractive to other people.
This position is also the basis of charisma - “God’s gift” in Greek. It is said that leaders have charisma - a special divine gift.
In truth, every person comes with an assortment of gifts from birth: different abilities, different skills. A leader is someone who identifies God’s gift within themselves - the talent, the ability and the greatness. This identification enables them to increase the presence of this greatness, work with it, and create with it, until it is recognized by others.
These five principles form the inner positions that evolve into leadership capability.
From these positions a person can face any reality and transform it into a desired future reality. Throughout this long, conscious and chosen process of becoming a leader they undergo transformation and growth. They translate these internal positions and convictions into actions. The behavior and performance of a leader is derived from these positions. Leaders do not digress from their path in spite of the challenges they face along the way.
The world needs new type of leaders. In the “New Normal” that the world will awaken to post the pandemic crisis, real leaders will be needed. Not “as if” self- proclaimed 80% of leaders. We will all need real leaders that work from the inside- out. Leaders that could help to lead genuinely many others through the challenges that are yet to come. Leaders that care. That their leadership is based on deep values and principles and not on self- interest We need to develop and groom the 20% of leaders that will make all the difference in this new uncertain world.
6.3.2021 Playa Venao
Partially based on his recently published book “Navigating in times of change- The N.E.W.S.® Journey”.
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