In the past, being a good leader was simpler. It meant getting things done and owning the role. Today, leadership means doing a lot of different things well, ideally at once. What’s clear to everyone (at least in theory) is that we’re moving away from an autocratic leadership style. We no longer want a solo dictator and decision-maker who controls activities without meaningful team participation.
We want our leaders to enable their teams to reach ambitious goals; be convincingly visionary, charismatic, and approachable; make their people feel seen; think creatively; inspire creativity in others and act in future-oriented ways; all while nourishing a strong multi-stakeholder network and being present in the here and now with palpable enthusiasm, drive and passion.
The perception of leadership as one comprehensive, all-inclusive support, enablement and direction-giving ideal can be confusing and create somewhat superhuman expectations. The intersection of external expectations, expectation of self, self-image and the very real requirements of the job is where cramps tend to happen, both figuratively and literally speaking.
Rather than consuming a plethora of conflicting leadership literature and building a conceptual leadership ideal, the more useful approach can be: “Where am I in all of this?” and then “What would the most authentic and useful behaviour look like in this particular constellation?”
When viewed this way, it’s not about defining an ideal leadership style within an organisation and then imposing this perfect image on everyone.
Rather, it’s about understanding where individual purpose and business purpose meet and discerning leadership roles and which ones to use when.
My approach to leadership development is to frame it as a discovery process that builds bridges between “me” and “us” and helps people move from a limited view on what’s possible within a certain work scope to expansive self-efficacy and self-leadership, from which leadership of others emerges. When done well, leadership development changes how you view yourself within the system, how you communicate and how you affect others.