As we have just started to guide a diverse group of European leaders through an Innovation Leadership and Transformation experience over the next two weeks, we are connecting to what deeply matters to us, and it is this belief: Everyone is a leader.
What does that mean?
Leadership is not a position in a hierarchy nor a role that has been assigned to one person or another. Indeed everyone is called to lead, from whatever role they find themselves in, be it in their family, their team, their organisation, or their community. Everyone needs to ask a simple question to step into their leadership: What does this moment need from me?
Whilst the world is focused on the leaders on top, inspiring and engaging leadership from the front is often missing. Leading from the front is something very different to what is experienced in command and control structures of organisational hierarchies. Leading from the front means leading with a vision and in service of a future that what wants to be co-created and co-celebrated by leader and followers.
As coaches, we often get to lead from behind. We ask powerful questions so as to allow our clients to find their own answers. We champion them as we already see their highest future potential. And we stand in the belief that they can reach it. Yet, we also are present with them as they struggle with frustrations, distractions, and setbacks along the way. Leading from behind is just as powerful when parents, teachers, and good bosses use this leadership style to foster the growth of those around them, letting them find their own way.
At Choose Leadership, we design and deliver our experiential learning programmes together. We don’t see ourselves collaborating, i.e. not one of us is responsible for one part of the programme, whilst the other signs up for creating or delivering another part. No, we co-create all experiences together. Leading from Beside means that we are each 100% responsible for the delivery of the full programme, and for all the tasks that need to be done beforehand. Leading from Beside involves creative sparks and might not always be as fast as doing things on one’s own, but it drives us much further, towards creating engaging, participatory learning for the sake of evoking leadership in everyone.
Co-leading is also what often calls for working on our Leadership Within: it points us to inner work. The creative friction points us to where we need to let go of our ego so that we can fully lean in. Co-leading needs us to truly open to the other’s perspective and respond from our values and purpose to whatever happens between us, and between us and our participants. This is only possible if we stay creative, rather than go reactive. “The success of the intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.” I have always loved this quote from Bill O’Brian, former CEO of Hanover Insurance. To give an example: If you believe that people are inherently egotistical and self centred, then your advocating for behaviour change so as to fight climate change together will fail.
My favourite leadership muscle to build is Leading from the Field: to read what is going on in a room, to name it, and to observe how my interpretation of what is going on underneath the words and actions of participants lands with others. To read the field is a leadership skill which separates the leaders who see and respond to what is happening around them from those who blindly get swooped up by change and the competition. It takes true listening to what others are saying to both understand the field and then to shift it. Which leads us back to great coaching: Deep listening to what the other is saying might have the strongest impact on a client, even if we have nothing to add and no wisdom to share. It also leads us back to Leader Within: Only when we are “not reactive” (angry at someone or something, in fear of our job, …), can we sense what is in the field. Else we just project ourselves onto others.
All of the 5 ways to lead are interrelated with each other. And the fun of leadership is to practice flexibly moving from one leadership style to another, always on the lookout for what the situation needs from us, in this moment.
If you want to build your individual, team, or organisational leadership muscles, get it touch with us.