What does it mean to be a leader?
How effective is your leadership?
A friend of mine forwarded this link to me; A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues. I don’t read much feminist literature and was sufficiently curious to read the entire article. The writer’s point is pretty compelling:
- Our society has been undermining the value of masculinity
- As a result, we have lost some of the potency and power that made us a great nation
- We suffer from a scarcity of strong male leadership
But, what is “strong male leadership” anyway? I recently read an intriguing book by Edwin H. Friedman entitled, A Failure of Nerve, Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix. Friedman builds a compelling case that our society is in a regression characterized by:
- A regressive, counter-evolutionary trend in which the most dependent members of any organization set the agenda and where adaptation is constantly toward weakness rather than strength, thus leveraging power to the recalcitrant, the passive-aggressive, the most anxious members of an institution rather than toward the energetic, the visionary, the imaginative, and the motivated.
- A devaluation of the process of individuation so that leaders tend to rely more on expertise than on their own capacity to be decisive.
- An obsession with data and technique that has become a form of addiction and turns professionals into data-junkies and their data into data junkyards.
- A widespread misunderstanding about the relational nature of destructive processes in families and institutions that leads leaders to assume that toxic forces can be regulated through reasonableness, love, insight, role-modeling, inculcation of values and striving for consensus.
So, what does it mean to be a strong leader?
- Having clearly defined values in which you believe and which mold your attitudes and actions. Strong leaders are people of character. They have clear and definite opinions that aren’t vulnerable to change regardless of the pressure exerted by public opinion or the temptations of greed.
- Demonstrating courage to act instead of waiting for all of the facts to be collected or for everyone else to get on board. Strong leaders seize the day. They are bold in moving forward. They know that data is important, but that it also has its limitations. Strong leaders trust their instincts to “know” what to do.
- Decisiveness in dealing with opposition. Strong leadership will always be opposed. Resistance and attack come with the territory. Strong leaders expect opposition and side clearly with the need to move forward, even if some will be left behind.
Do we have strong leaders in our society? Certainly, we do. But, I do wonder if these writers don’t make an excellent point. As we watch Washington hopelessly gridlocked while the economy and the American people are suffering, shouldn’t we ask about the leadership of our elected officials? What are their values? Where is their courage? When do they demonstrate decisive courage in taking a stand that might not be popular and could potentially cost them a future election, but are, in their opinion, the right things for the country?
My world is the world of business and working with leaders in executive coaching. We might ask the same questions in this arena.
- Do business leaders have clearly defined values beyond posting positive quarterly numbers and meeting Wall Street’s expectations? Do they embrace the strength of building quality products, being innovators, providing impeccable customer service and/or having sound business practices?
- Do business leaders demonstrate the courage to stand tall, to speak out, to make clear decisions based on clear convictions and their leadership instincts? It is so easy in uncertain times to hold back, to wait and see how things go. But, leaders are the pace setters. They create the path for others to follow.
- Do business leaders deal effectively with those who oppose their leadership, who seek to slow things down or thwart progress for the sake of the weak? It is so important that leaders demonstrate philanthropy. But, that is different than holding up progress because some can’t keep up. Many companies have an amazingly convoluted process for dismissing low performers that it simply isn’t worth the bother. Companies collect sludge that is almost impossible to purge.
Many leaders – in politics, business and life – are too ‘dense.’ Like rocks, not much light penetrates their consciousness, and they simply aren’t able to see the big picture. This causes much anxiety and unhappiness for themselves and others. When I think of the leaders in my business consulting services practice, this is where they strive to make improvements to their lives and their business practices. It is that being a successful leader means.
We need more strong leaders in all areas of our society. We need men and women who have strong values, courage and decisiveness in their leadership – people who are not dense. We need you.