“We need stronger leaders.”
So goes the refrain in many boardrooms. Which results in leadership development programs, mentorship programs, and a host of other initiatives. The focus? What it means to be a leader. What effective leaders do.
We celebrate successful leaders. We study them. We model them. All in the belief that if we do what they do then we, too, will be successful. And if we aren’t, then other factors conspired against us. At least we’ve done what we needed to do. That’s how leadership works.
It’s time to rewrite the narrative.
The static, leader-centric view of leadership overlooks one crucial truth: Leadership is the art of creating followership.
As a leader it doesn’t ultimately matter what you do; what matters is what your people do. And what they do is a product of who they are and what they experience in the work environment. It’s about them. If you follow the textbook practices of great leadership and you’re not getting the right results, that doesn’t make you a great leader. It makes you a technician.
Leadership is adaptive. To the situation at hand. To the skills your people possess and don’t possess. To their psychology. Some employees just need you to point them in the right direction and then get out of the way. Others need you to reinforce every step they take. To let them know they’re doing okay. That you approve.
Sure, there are some leadership practices that are universals. Establishing vision, clarifying expectations, delivering feedback. Yet the ultimate test of leadership isn’t how well you’ve established, clarified and delivered. The ultimate test is whether they are motivated and do what you need them to do.
It’s about them.
Make it happen.
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