Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Leadership 101

At work right now I am interviewing prospective students. One of the questions that I ask is: How do you define leadership?
I've heard some really wonderful answers which always make me wonder what my own answer would be if someone just asked me that question cold. How do I define leadership?
Leadership is about relationship. And when I think about leadership in my own life, I think about being a parent. Honestly, I can't think of any group of people harder to lead than those that matter most to us. The qualities that I value in leadership play out so beautifully against the backdrop of these little miracles of life:
  • Attunement
  • Boundaries
  • Structure
  • Guidance and Support
  • Decision making
  • Authority
  • Respect
  • Sacrifice
  • Being in service to a higher good
  • Accountability
Leadership to me is about being a catalyst - a nimble, reflective presence that never forgets that there is a mission or goal to be completed. Parenting has very long term goals with a vision of health and happiness for the future. And, finally, leadership in parenting knows when it is time to step down and allow the child to learn what it means to be a leader in their own life and within the family.
People write books about leadership and I know that this is just the tip of a very complex and fascinating iceberg. And yet, what I like about the question as I ask it in interviews is that I get very personal, thoughtful answers that are often articulating aloud feelings and ideas for the first time. Just as I did above. And as people think about their answer – as I am – they often sit back and see all the different ways that they could continue to talk about what leadership is. Which I am doing even as I write this.
We know good leadership when we see it. Why? What stands out? We think we know what good parenting is – again – why? What do we see? What qualities do we respond to when someone leads us well? Parents us well? What are the qualities what stand out in my own leadership/parenting that have led my children into their adult lives?
More questions with very personal answers. No answer is wrong but I get closer to how I define leadership.

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