Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers … -Colin Powell
I was fortunate to have my grandson visit me from overseas in August. As I was following him around the park one day, I noticed a pattern that was at once intensely familiar and somehow foreign to my adult self. He asked, “Why?” after every statement or observation. Why is the grass green? Why is the sky blue? Why does the rain fall? Why does the flower open? Why, why, why. After we returned home I started thinking about the renewed energy coursing through me.
I recently read an article by Stephen Covey. He talked about different leadership process models and determining what model fits with us as individuals when we are in a position of wanting to influence others. The ideas put forth in the article led to more questions and self-reflection, as any good article does. It seemed the perfect way to follow-up on the themes of Self-Awareness and Hero Leadership I wrote about this summer.
When you read the following quotes, which one resonates most with your leadership style?
Model #1: Who before Where
Leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline -first the people, then the direction – no matter how dire the circumstances. – Jim Collins: Good to Great
Model #2: Where before What
The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing. Skillful management is very important to ensure things run efficiently and effectively, but leadership is about setting the direction. -Stephen Covey
Model #3 Team Pursuit
The team is only as good as its slowest member. This is why development and training is important. We must support and improve all members of our team to do their best, not rely on individual superstars. We need to ensure the way we lead others sends them off to the next task in the right frame of mind, with the right attitude – minimizing drag (cycling term) for our colleagues. And the culture we set should be one of continual improvement, training each aspect of our performance to perfection in order to achieve excellence. -Zoe Elder
Model #4 Start with the Why
The norm for leadership is to communicate from the outside in, starting with what you do then how you do it before expecting a change in behavior. More influential still is values-driven leadership which communicates and is driven from the inside out, starting with why. If you can articulate your “why” then it gives you the core values that will allow you to lead effectively in any setting. -Simon Sinek
There are metaphors for countless models of leadership from cycling teams to geese to cathedral builders. What matters is not which model is right or wrong, but that, as leaders, we are intentional about our approach. Perhaps you employ a combination of models, or have evolved from one to another. Perhaps you are a patchwork and you engage different models depending on the situation.
Values driven leadership that starts with the “why” resonates most deeply with me. When I know the “why” everything clicks into or out of alignment almost immediately. The clarity makes it sometimes tempting to avoid the why but I know, as my grandson reminded me, it is always worth pursuing. No one runs fast in the dark and I know I can light the way as a leader by answering the why and getting out of the way to engage the best of what people bring to the table.
I asked why relentlessly as a child but learned to quell that tenacity somewhere along the way. I am bringing it back because sharing the answers to the why’s is as important as sharing the questions. Perhaps that is the most important lesson in leadership – the energy comes from the asking and the courage inherent in that act. While it sounds simple, the great leaders, as Colin Powell referenced, know it is anything but…