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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Executive Insider

Where Do You Start With Leadership?

Leadership has become an overused buzzword that seems to be the new personal development term for our times. If you ask ten people to define what leadership is, you will get a wide variety of answers.

Some may say authority, power, influence, while others will focus on vision, charisma, or perhaps integrity.

Most will agree that to be a leader you should have a position of authority. So let’s clarify something. Leadership is the ability to influence, which makes us all leaders.

“It is not about position. Leadership is everybody’s business. It is for men, women, and children. It is for families, businesses, and communities. It is for you.”

That is great of course if a little scary. But if we are all leaders, where do we start? How do we embrace it and start to lead with intent?

CURIOSITY: OPEN MIND

The first step is to try to see the bigger picture. Leadership is often about seeing the birds eye view, and realising that you are looking at the universe through a keyhole. Curiosity is key in this respect, as is an awareness that you do not know everything.

Good leaders will seek out alternative viewpoints, empathise with others position, spend time developing listening skills, and work on identifying their own blind spots.

At times this can mean being almost childlike. As children we experiment with mixing paints, or putting chocolate biscuits in to DVD players. We have imaginary conversations and friends, and live in a world where animals talk and the impossible is possible.

We can take that same creativity and curiosity in to adulthood, but apply it to our business lives as well as our personal lives.

What would happen if you allowed your team to work remotely?

What new organisational structure could you try?

How would a virtual assistant help you?

We can see examples all around of companies that embraced their curiosity, and found new ways of being. Netflix, Uber, Air B&B.

The pandemic has meant we all have to be curious and find new ways to live our lives and run our businesses.

A great tool to develop your curiosity, as well as emotional intelligence, is to find someone who you absolutely disagree with, and have a friendly conversation with them. Try to see the world through their eyes.

COURAGE: WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN? 

Leadership is not about authority given to us by position. A management position does not make us a leader. We all impact those around us, and our direct reports, but a leader does so with intent.

They have a bigger meaning to their actions, perhaps we can call it a “why”?

So what is your why? Or rather, what is your mission and values? How do you want to shape the reality around you? Knowing the answer to these questions will serve as a guide for when you should speak up or stay silent, or when you should act vs inaction.

Social media can be a battleground of deeply held beliefs, some of which can be ignorant and fear filled. A leader knows which ones they feel are important and that they will choose to challenge or support. You have influence all the time, so know when you want to wield it.

This courage will allow you to embrace your curiosity and answer the calls to adventure that may seem scary at first.

We actually like fear. It is why many people watch horror movies, go on rollercoasters, or jump out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute.

Many of these activities are not a solo experience. So take someone else on your journey, or reach out to those who have done it and ask for guidance.

Fear can be the unknown, so be curious about the thing that scares you, and lean into it.

COMPASSION: OPEN HEART

In any debate on leadership definitions those people that had a massive negative impact on the world are often cited as leaders. People such as Hitler. Leadership cannot come from how much harm you do, even if that is on a massive scale. It comes from compassion.

This was beautifully encapsulated by the Apollo 8 astronauts, who were a three man crew that spent three days travelling to the moon and orbited it ten times. An amazing feat. They also turned the camera back on the earth.

For the first time in history the earth was seen from the point of view of space, in all is fragility, vulnerability, and insignificance.

A marble, surrounded by emptiness, with just a thin barrier protecting all life from extinction.

Every human that is alive, or has ever lived, did so on that tiny marble. Our racial, sexual, religious, differences are meaningless compared to the infinite Universe.

The borders we use to categorise and separate people, are fictional, in the greater scheme of things. We are one race. Hurtling through space to our ultimate demise.

So where should you start with leadership? The answer is, of course, love. To care, to befriend, to have empathy.

This is why I developed Keyhole Leadership, a model which uses curiosity, courage and compassion as anchor points in leadership decisions to guide us back to love.

You have the tools now. 

So go lead.


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Darren Horne
Educator, consultant, motivational speaker, author, writer, media, and communications specialist; helping organisations understand the value of leadership and communication in creating an engaged and creative workforce. Darren Horne's the author of Level Up Your Teens: A guide to hack your life. Darren Horne is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.