Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Leaders wanted... preferably alive

A few bulletins ago I wrote a short review of this book about leadership, and have since discovered people read it - the review and the book - and others have been curious to know more. So I guess this is a more extended review, mixed with my own musings about leadership and what it is.

'How was your day?' is a question that is often asked, but which matters more now than we think. For those of us privileged to be in the field of change and challenging business-as-usual in whatever guise, it seems that the line between work and play has all but disappeared. In the last 20 years, even conventional business wisdom has 'clicked' that employees who enjoy their jobs do the best work, make the greatest impact, and are changing the most.

I've been inspired by Godin's book as one of those which seems to affirm things I dimly knew but had stored away somewhere, and at the same time exudes confidence to all of us involved in the world of change and challenge - to lead even.

Aha! I've popped that word LEAD. I've often wondered why the 'L word' provokes such reaction - as it seems to - particularly in the world of activism, campaigning, NGOs, and volunteering. Godin says, " leadership isn't difficult, but you've been trained for years to avoid it". Sometimes scepticism about the need for leadership comes from the experience of management, and management is most often about keeping the status quo, not challenging it.

More commonly, however, I think leadership gets confused with ego. Many 'leaders' in the public domain do big egos, which furthermore seem to thrive in the limelight. We can instantly sniff this sort of thing when it appears. Authentic leadership, however, involves the opposite. Think humility and service, and think Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Eckhart Tolle.... we all have our ideal leaders.

Maybe another problem is that when we think 'leader', we think 'big', and we think 'leaders have loads of followers'. Not necessarily so. One of the traps which many NGOs and campaign groups fall into is to think 'bigger is better', and that involving more and more people will mean things get better. Also, not necessarily true. Godin's response to this comes in a great little piece called 'Most People Don't Matter So Much'. It goes like this:

Most people work hard to fit in so other's don't notice
Most people want the world to stay as it is, but calmer
Most people are afraid
Most people didn't use Google until last year
Most people aren't curious

You're not most people
Not only aren't leaders most people, but the members of the most tribes aren't most people either

Most people are really good at ignoring new trends or big ideas
You can worry about most people all day, but...they're not worried about you - they can't hear you, no matter how hard you yell.

Almost all the growth that's available to you exists when you aren't like most people and when you appeal to folks who aren't most people.

Hmmmm.... so I'll sign off there on that note..... and ponder at the end of the day, how it was.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Chris, good review, good book.

    I also like the way that leadership is equated with herecy in the book - made a lot of sense to me as someone disaffected by traditional notions of leadership (management/ego/control) - where the heretic is someone is driven by absolute belief in a vision that conflicts with the status quo and is compelled to make a noise about it.

    Godin also notes the growth of internet / blogs / social networking as the progenitor of this modern herecy, and the power of alternative voices to create waves and get noticed. Which makes me reflect on the readership stats for this very blog and websites like challenging quo-mongers like Murdoch and the mainstream media. I guess we'll see just how much power Murdoch and his ilk have lost to the heretics on Friday!

    I found it an easy, inspiring read.