The component required for leadership to shift from being a noun to a verb, is agency.
Agency is someone’s ability to act or take action. Without it, you may be aware, but you lack choice – you’re stuck in stasis.
Why does this matter to leadership?
First, a leader is someone who chooses to take responsibility for their world.
Second, a core responsibility of a leader is to grow more leaders, more people who choose to take responsibility for their world.
The challenge for aspiring – sometimes seasoned – leaders is that their attention is often drawn to their circle of concern – the things over which they can exercise neither influence nor control.
“I can’t do anything about X!” is an often heard complaint. The critical response to this statement is not engagement with the terrain of powerlessness, but to ask “What can you do something about?”
Pause. Silence. Shifting in the seat. “I guess that I could do something about… Y.” That is the moment, when the other has now connected to their agency.
Our brains love their ingrained neural pathways, so it won’t be long before you hear “Yeah, but what about… Z?”
Your responsibility is to point them back to their circle of control by bringing them back to their agency “What is something that you could do to influence Z?”
Our role as leaders is to use our coaching skills to lead from behind by encouraging, enabling and empowering those we lead or co-lead with. Thus we help them connect to their agency over and over again.
And here’s the secret. People notice. You can be a role model. When people see you connecting to your agency, they are more likely to do things which connect them to their own agency. And it is through this process that teams and organisations shift from whatever flavour of learned helplessness is prevalent in their organisation to agency and vitality.
I leave you with the words of Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…
Who at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”