I was mulling over leadership with a trusted colleague a while back and reflecting on the fact that I had never really seen myself as a leader. I had a mental picture of a charismatic front man (and they are so often men!), leading the way, lighting the path. You know, the “once more into the breach” kind of thing.
What I know now is that I am a leader, just one of a different ilk. Rather than “the great helmsman” shining a light into the darkness with my followers bringing up the rear, I am an equal with my team. We are certainly venturing forth into the unknown, but we are doing it with linked arms, moving forward as one. I rely on them and they rely on me.
As we discussed this concept, we agree that perhaps this model of leadership was one that would become increasingly prevalent. In this age of complexity, no one person can be relied on to have all the right answers. We need diverse personalities, skills and abilities, backgrounds and world views to make our teams strong and take us in the right direction. To believe that one leader can always make the right decisions about the direction to take, be unflinchingly relied upon to lead their followers in the right direction – is this even possible today?
The other dimension we discussed was vulnerability and authenticity. No one is perfect, no one can be relied on to weather every storm on their own. When you are leading from the front, if you stumble there are a lot of negative consequences both for you and your team. However, if you are all holding each other up, any team member can temporarily stumble and yet the team continues on, supporting the one as needed. When they find their feet, they make the team stronger again. The leader can be one who stumbles on occasion too.
This model of leadership creates a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. My job is to make sure we have people that bring those diverse capabilities to the team, that the right people are in the right positions. I must also make sure that the team understand this structure we are trying to create, and be a strong contributor to the direction that we are taking. I strive to not stumble too often! We all have distinct roles – mine is often to be the external face of my team, promoting what we can do. It is a role I love, because I truly believe all the teams I have in my life are amazing linked groups, with everyone bringing their best capabilities and intentions to what we do. I am lucky to be a leader.