“Leadership is over-glorified”

I always enjoy sharing Derek Siver’s excellent TED talk, “How to start a movement”. What usually ensues is enlightening debate about the importance of choosing carefully when you nail your colours to the business mast. Leadership is not always about being the first. It’s more often about being totally clear on your stance and letting others know about it.

For many, ‘leadership’ is often misconceived as the sole domain of anyone with leader, manager, head or director on their business card. We can quickly debunk this theory by also recognising that successful leadership is evident in other forms such as:

  • persisting in seeing a tricky project through to completion;
  • encouraging someone else to pursue a burgeoning talent or idea;
  • taking someone else’s great idea, testing it out and carrying it forward;
  • giving tough feedback to people who would otherwise remain blind to the negative impact they have on those around them.

This is everyday leadership in action. This is the under-celebrated and sustaining leadership that keeps the world turning. This is courage, humility and determination combining to create a movement in forward and positive action.

So the next time you hear someone say “I’m no leader…”, remind them that leadership is easily over-glorified, and that wisely following a course you believe in is simply leadership in another guise.

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When do you make a stand?

innukshukWhen was the last time you made a stand about something? When did you really push for something you really believed in?

Take, for example, a youth cricket coach who insisted that his young players shake hands with their opponents at the end of the match, because he believed so strongly in showing respect. Or think of a company director, who, despite having admiration for the technical talents of one of her co-founders, realised her colleague was no longer the right person to take the business to the next level. So she sat down with him and had that difficult conversation. Then consider a doctor from Syria, working in the UK, making an impassioned speech to his colleagues to enlist their support for taking medical aid back to his war-torn homeland.

I have had the great privilege to know all of these people, and to bear witness to real leadership in action. Not all of them have the senior position, or the official mandate to do what they chose to do. It wasn’t written down anywhere in a job description. Leadership, in its purest form, shows up in our lives everyday, and we should open our eyes to embrace it. We can learn the theory, and that can help, but leadership is in everyone in some form, we just need to trust our own courage when it counts.

So, again, when do you make a stand, and what does that mean you stand for?