I spent part of this morning with a colleague who wanted some feedback on a presentation he is giving to a leadership development organisation. He’s been short listed for inclusion in an innovative programme and part of the selection process involves the inevitable power point presentation on why he’s the best candidate for the limited spaces.
As he began to run through his presentation I began to think about the hundreds and thousands of books and blogs that have been written about leadership. It has been elevated to a science and I for one, feel overwhelmed at times by my apparent lack of knowledge and qualifications.
That feeling of being overwhelmed by detail turned out to be useful in our subsequent conversation.
I know this man’s work. I know he’s a leader in his field. Why then was I drowning in the detail of his presentation? The one thing leaders need is followers and I couldn’t follow (literally and metaphorically) him. I realised that he was demonstrating his ability to manage rather than his capacity to lead. He also realised that he was defending rather than demonstrating and once we got our heads around the detail we threw it out and started again.
Leaders are managers with vision – and (the important piece) the capacity to turn that vision into action. I don’t need to know a leader can manage – I want to take that bit for granted. What I want from a leader is a demonstration of why I should follow and an invitation to join them. In order to follow I need to know “why” and once we’ve worked out the “why” I want to know what the implications are. Lots of people can manage, but leaders do things in their own inimitable way. Too many “leaders” are really managers who are preoccupied with the “how” and the “what”.
Our conversation then focussed on why this man is passionate about what he does. We talked about his vision of the world when he creates the opportunity to unleash that passion. We talked about the changes that unleashing brings about. His energy level came rising up. I couldn’t not be engaged by his enthusiasm and interest. He stopped trying to defend doing what he does and began to invite me into the world as he sees it.
He’s already a leader – it’s just he didn’t know how to tap into that bit of him because he was overwhelmed by the detail of project managing his career and his work. I never fail to be amazed by how much we already know if only we’d take the time to trust ourselves. When you find the right conversation, it all makes sense.