The Leader's Origin Story #3
By Graham Bell
In my last blog I described how we decided to start a business to support and develop leaders – at all ages and stages. I have been asked on several occasions - why this area? And, at times, I have asked myself the same question.
I have now decided there is no one reason, rather a number of personal experiences, observations and interests have come together. There are both intellectual rationales as well as personal motivations – and most importantly an overwhelming belief that leadership really matters. I have never seen a business or organisation grow beyond the capability and commitment of its leader.
Quality of leadership
In my career I have had the opportunity to meet the leaders of businesses and organisations of all shapes and sizes, from all sectors of the economy and society. When looking at their success or failure the common denominator is the quality of leadership. Now I am going to put a qualification on this too – fortune or timing or circumstances also play a significant part; something that research suggests leaders want to underplay, if they are successful! But I have seen what looked like impossible situations turned around by great leaders; and I have seen great businesses flame out or simply wither and die because of bad leadership.
The magic elixir of leadership
Of course, the perfect ‘magic elixir’ of leadership remains elusive; but we now know enough about what works – and what doesn’t – to at least be able to work at improving how we lead. And as I think about the thousands of leaders I have come into contact with, I see some key attributes of the good and the great ones. And I have seen the other side of leadership; the weaker, the darker and the inadequate. And it is recognising the good and bad factors that made me want to start The Leader.
These leaders were deliberate and practical about learning to improve. It didn’t just fall from the sky and hit them on the head. They didn’t just gain experience – they reflected on and evaluated their experiences. And they then intentionally set out to get better; not to make the same mistake again, to look at what worked - and why; to learn; and to seek from others help and guidance. Their mantra was always ‘we’ and never ‘I’ – unless it was to accept the blame.
And when I saw failing leaders there were also a few key attitudes and behaviours that seemed to mark them out; arrogance and superiority; an unwillingness to learn; the ‘I’ mentality; and an unwillingness to either acknowledge the need for help or to seek it out. Sometimes you could almost feel the crash coming.
When you lose, don't lose the lesson
In setting up a leadership support and development business there is the lurking fear that people will think you are proclaiming yourself as an oracle – but the reality is very different. One of my favourite novel characters is Harry Bosch, the gritty LA detective. He talks of how his experience comes from a lot of screwups. (Actually, it was a bit stronger than that!). As I have been re-learning about the art, science and practice of leadership I can’t help but reflect on how much experience I have gained from screwups. But it is that evaluated experience and subsequent learning that I now want to use to help other leaders.
Be well. Do good. Till next time.
“Reach higher. See further.”
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