‘What Does Leadership Really Mean?’
By Conor Kenny, Teacher, Trainer, Writer. Founder of conorkenny.com
Of course there is so let me try to make it very simple:
At its simplest, this is about you, your impact and how that affects your team.
To use a sporting analogy, it's about how you will lead your side to victory, with the clock ticking and a result required. Oh, and it's a cup final. There are no second chances!
Leadership is about how you take up that challenge, what you see, what you will do and how you will get people to follow you and support you.
What's the difference?
In our workshops, many people confuse managing with leading. Of course they do overlap but this might help:
This is simple and slightly formulaic academia. Useful but hardly new.
"Leaders have followers, Managers have people who work for them"
But let me show you something from Tom Peters - The American Business Writer - instead:
"Listening rules. Listening effectively is a "profession" as much as neurosurgery—though much more powerful than neurosurgery.
Listening is the ultimate mark of respect.
Listening is the ultimate motivator.
Listening is the ultimate source of knowledge.
Listening is the ultimate—and only trustworthy—"culture barometer."
Listening rocks, rolls, and rules.
If you think "small talk" is small, then resign your leadership role this morning.
Friendships are the lubricant of effective leadership.
Being pleasant is not antithetical to being tough-minded. In fact, though it's counterintuitive, they are handmaidens.
Internal impatience is a virtue. External impatience is a vice"
In many ways, Leadership is about vision and people.
If you don't know where you want to go then it is very difficult to have a starting point.
Not a lot more.
Every great leadership quote talks about influence and impact. Without people, neither exist.
So, in simple terms, leadership is about seeing where you want to go, motivating your team to trust and follow your vision and then - critically - walking with them, in their shoes, to help them to help you get to that place.
If I were to pick out 2 quotes that come at this clichéd subject quite differently, I'd choose these:
John Kenneth Galbraith
- Canadian Economist & Diplomat
"All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership."
Harvey S. Firestone
- Founder of Firestone Tyres
"The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership."
In My View?
- "For me, management is about focusing on today and leadership is about thinking beyond today"
How Are You Doing?
Leadership is a highly intricate mix of character, charisma and competence. It's about how you are perceived by your troops and here are a few questions that might help you decide if you are a leader or perhaps, a manager. But first, here's another thought:
In the eyes of your co-workers have you considered this?
How you paint a picture of the future,
How you behave, how you engage,
How you excite,
How you talk,
What you say,
How you say it,
How you listen,
How you help and
How much you care.
These are the things they will look at and especially when you don't think they are watching.
To answer the question
To answer this 'Are you a leader?' question, maybe look at your own answers to this:
o Have you a clear vision?
o Have you explained it?
o Do they know it?
o Do they understand it?
o Does it excite and inspire them?
o Were they involved?
o Have they bought in?
o Do they agree?
Now ask yourself this;
If the answer to any of these questions is 'No' then you need to make something happen
Learning from the best
I have always been interested in understanding leadership.
At the beginning of this article I mentioned 'impact'. That's what it comes down to. There can't be leadership without impact - impact on events, situations and people. In 2015, I decided to explore this topic more and the book 'Dancing at the Fountain - In conversation with world leading hoteliers' came to be.
Like you and I, they have a view on leadership and impact.
They get the last word. This is what they said in the book:
Bernard Murphy, Managing Director, Gleneagles, Scotland
"Most managers spend most of their time worrying about or dealing with the bottom 10% of their performers. In actual fact, we'd probably get far further if we invested that time in the top 20% telling them what a great job they're doing and showing them how they could do it even better - it would be like letting the genie out of the bottle"
Nathalie Seiler-Hayez, Managing Director, Beau-Rivage Palace, Switzerland
"If you do not have this passion for people, then I think it's going to be very difficult to be a top class general manager. Yes, there are GMs who can run a hotel perfectly well without being that people-oriented, but the hotel is always run to a good standard not to a luxury standard.
Managing people is critical. If there is a crisis, it needs a decision right now! This is what management is about. You need to be able to decide quickly - and bring people with you.
In the old days, it was like the military: the general manager had all of the soldiers around him. For me, it is impossible to run a business like that"
Michael Davern, Chief Executive, the K Club, Ireland
On Keeping It Simple:
"I learnt from Dr. Smurfit one great mantra - management is very simple: its step 1, 2, 3, problem, solution, and implementation. That's it, there's nothing more to it. Presented with a problem, analyse the facts, come up with a solution and then go and implement the solution. If you have decided on the solution, what are you doing hanging around? Go get it done. Move it on and then the next one will come along"
And "Getting to the top has a lot to do with self-management"