On the real work of leaders..

December 3, 2009

Too many leadership scholars and executives are obsessed by a pointless question: Are leaders born, or are they made?….Leadership might be learnable. But instead of taking comfort in the idea that you can develop, wake up to the sobering realization of how difficult it will be to manage novel situations continuously and under often-extreme circumstances.

Thought provoking article from the Wall Street Journal inviting people to think about the reality of leading as distinct from the abstract prospect of it. The authors pose a number of questions including
How far do you want to go?

It is easy to criticize the competence of those with greater responsibilities than ourselves, and even easier to fantasize about how we would do the job better.
A useful exercise: Look at your immediate boss’s job and ask yourself if you could do it as well, or better–honestly. Then, stretch even further and consider the most senior leader in your line of sight–perhaps the chief executive. Learn about what that person must deal with. Get a feel for the time, energy and capabilities required to do those jobs. What would those jobs require you to do that you can’t do now, or that you don’t enjoy doing? What do you enjoy now, but would have to give up?

What are you willing to invest?

Leadership certainly requires business smarts, technical capabilities and cultural sensibilities, but above all, it is about power. While this point is upsetting to some people, the brutal reality is that whatever else a leader must do, a leader must gain, exercise and retain power.

How will you keep it up?

Over several decades, you need ways to keep yourself going when you are not being recognized and rewarded for your performance–and to deal with criticism, resistance, setbacks and people disliking you or what you are asking them to do.
If you envision another 10, 20 or even 30 years of leadership work, then you must find effective methods for maintaining your physical vitality, your emotional flexibility and your intellectual reach and freshness.

Probably not a lot in this article that’s currently taught in Business Schools.
Hat Tip to Leading Questions

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