I’ve recently jumped into the vast sea of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) and signed up for a class on leadership. It’s started off great and, as intended, lead me to reflect on what leadership means to me.
I believe that leadership is not a position, but rather a behavior. It’s an activity independent of position.
Great leadership engages people in potentially difficult change by addressing directly the tensions that arise from that change in a way that moves the team or organization forward through a cycle of learning. Most importantly, great leadership helps create a safe container for expression and for learning to occur.
Receptivity and Presence are important to great leadership. Receptivity involves listening, asking questions, receiving people as they are, and taking things in stride. Presence is about creating and holding a safe space for others. One of my favorite managers, Yasmine, is now a dear friend. Yasmine brought out the best in me by asking questions and soliciting my ideas and opinions. She spoke honestly and directly about good news and bad. She removed obstacles and buffered us from distracting tensions beyond our control. Working for Yasmine I felt confident, capable, motivated and valued. She embodied presence and receptivity with great strength.
What is required when exercising leadership is recognizing when resistance or tension is present, creating and holding a safe space to work through that tension, setting a context of holistic, integrative, and adaptive learning, and, like Yasmine, having the compassion, courage and skill to be engaged with those you are leading.
What does leadership mean to you?