the blog Synergy

Sunday, March 05, 2006

“Great Leading” means what, exactly?

Last month, our own Steve Sherlock wrote a book review on The One Thing You Need to Know by Marcus Buckingham. In doing so, he brought back to mind some unfinished business for me. I have been on a quest for quite some time to get more clarity about leadership, and specifically, our can-do leadership. You and me, every day, and in everything we do.

Why? I believe that a) leadership matters, and b) leading is something we can all do. Titles and positions of power are irrelevant. As a coach, I want to help people lead when they believe they can.

As Steve explains in his review, Buckingham actually gives us three things we need to know: one thing is about Great Managing, one thing is about Great Leading, and one thing is about Sustained Individual Success. His book is great, and I highly recommend it, however if I may, I’d like to get the help of Team Synergy, and all of you, our blog Synergy readers, to help dig a bit deeper into the one thing we need to know about Great Leading in particular.

This is what Buckingham claims:

“Great leaders rally people to a better future.”

“What defines a leader is his preoccupation with the future. In his head he carries a vivid image of what the future could be, and this image drives him on. This image, rather than, say, goals of outperforming competitors, or being individually productive, or helping others achieve success, is what motivates the leader.”

Then, he proceeds to explain in his book how they do this, first and foremost, with an obsession for clarity so that all those they lead can see, hear, feel and otherwise “touch” that same compelling image of the future they have, thereby driving alignment in all we do to achieve it.


I’m in Barnes & Noble about a week later, and I see something irresistible; the audio version of Jim Collin’s Good to Great on sale. Thanks to Steve’s book review sweeping out the cobwebs in my brain, I easily remember how Collins talks about Level 5 Leadership in his book:

Humility + Will = Level 5 Leadership.
The other significant thing Collins talks about, is that other word Buckingham mentions, a word I use a lot, a word Phil uses a lot, and a word a lot of us use a lot… Great.

Collins starts Good to Great by explaining why “Good is the enemy of great” and it’s hard to disagree with his reasoning. He says,

“That good is the enemy of great is not just a business problem. It is a human problem.”
We don’t have great schools, because we settle for good schools, we don’t have great government, because we’re deliriously happy when we just get good government, and so on. Worse, we may be cheating ourselves out of having a great life when we have a good one.

So I’m wondering; a few questions for us to chew on, and come to some synergy with:

1. Forget about the gurus; we all can be thought leaders too: What is “Great Leading” to you? Buckingham and Collins are two highly respected authors, but they are the first to admit, as Collins offers, that “the very best students are those who never quite believe their professors.”

2. How do you define the leading we need today in your everyday world? Even if you bow out and say “Nope, not me … I have no penchant for leadership,” what do you want from those who do pick up the baton?

3. Perhaps I’m the one you don’t quite believe … Do you buy that everyone can lead? What do you think I have to coach would-be leaders in? What is “walking the talk” of Great Leading?

4. Forget about business, and tackle the human problem part of this. Let’s make it real for you. What does it take to be a Great Leader outside the arena of your job where it’s normally expected? Easier? Harder? Is there any difference?

5. And I wonder, what must Great Leading begin to look like in the blogosphere? If you are reading this, you are leaps and bounds beyond the majority of the world in terms of your “multi-media literacy.” Whether you blog or “just read ‘em” how can you be leading? What kind of virtual leaders are you hoping will appear on your radar?

As Collins says, answers to these questions get to be human problems, not just business problems. Great Leading is about banishing mediocrity in favor of excellence. In everything.

I have a big favor to ask of you. Tag or bookmark this post, and get engaged with the discussion.

I’m going to challenge the rest of Team Synergy to take their shot at these questions for us this month. Knowing them, and the fascinating ways their minds work, they may think of related, more provocative questions of their own on this topic of Great Leading too. When they do, I’ll index their links here for you by updating this post.

And please, you can all comment, or blog and link too; we’d appreciate your help. That’s the Power of We talked about here; let’s not allow our own good to be enemy of the Great within us.

The blog Synergy Great Leading Index:
3/1 Kūlia i ka nu‘u! The best that we can be.

3/6 From Wordsmithing to Walking the talk of Great Leadership.

3/7 Rocky Noe tackles question #4 at HMMMMMM? A Snippet:

...It opens up a whole new idea on teaching leadership principles. What do you think? Am I way off base with this whole alpha personality thing? Is it just a bunch of macho junk (What did you expect from a guy named Rocky?) ...

3/8 Leadership 101: more from Rocky;
Lessons on leadership from the Mt Washington Colts
(8-9 year old pee wee football team)
with some commentary here: 3/9 Lead Great, Live Great

3/9 The Leader as Kipuka on
These leaders are not always larger than life. They are not always older, better traveled, or more experienced than we are. In fact, they could even be our children. They are leaders who may not have a title of leadership, but they act like leaders, and so in our picture frame of our present world, that’s who they are. That’s who we want them to be.
3/9 Steve Sherlock asks, "What makes a great leader?"
You can call it "contextual intelligence" or inspiration or insight or some other term but the great leader recognized an opportunity.
Read more.
3/10 Phil Gerbyshak posts his response here at blog Synergy. A snippet:
Great leading is someone who is willing to stand behind you when you make mistakes, and stand in front of you to block the wind and clear obstacles. Read more here!
3/11 Visit Trevor Gay at Simplicity for What is Great Leading?
In my career there have been leaders for whom I would happily work for more hours for less pay. There were those who I would not work for again if I was paid double.
3/13 Steve writes on something we all are very passionate about, with Leadership and Learning. He shares a great story there, and then ends with this reflection;
As Team Synergy continues to develop the conversation around leadership, I think we will find consensus that leadership requires the ability to learn.
3/14 Troy jumps in the fray with 5 different articles at Orbit Now! Check them out:
Five Questions on Leadership (1 of 5)-What is “great leading” to you?
Five Questions on Leadership (2 of 5)-How do you define the leading we need today?
Five Questions on Leadership (3 of 5)-What is “walking the talk” of Great Leading?
Five Questions on Leadership (4 of 5)-What does it take to be a Great Leader outside the workplace?
Five Questions on Leadership (5 of 5)-What does great leading look like in the blogosphere?
3/14 From Felix at Brandsoul: The elements of GREAT leadership
These three points, a sense of enjoyment-with-others, the modelling work of the team and the inspiration of the leader are for me the basis for real GREAT leadership.
3/14 Steve offers, From Seth to a Leadership answer
Tim had responded with what leadership would look like on the blogosphere. His points map nicely to what we are building via consensus a leader should do anyway, the points just happen to be specific to blogging...
3/20 More from Rocky, our Hillbilly PhD, with The business of leadership. Be sure to read the comments too.
If we break it down to its simplest terms leadership is being fair, honest and putting in a hard days work. I don’t know if very many people could be successful without those three ingredients. I think that is what great leadership is made of.
3/26 Tough questions beg help from a master now and then... This morning my master of choice was Peter Drucker; he helped me with two more articles:
Kūlia i ka nu‘u and the Qualities of a Leader: “Leadership is the lifting of a man’s vision to higher sights.”
“Not to alibi.” ...the third of the four competencies of a leader.
3/26 And doesn’t it always seem true, that questions beget more questions? Steve had one today about the qualities of leadership here on blog Synergy; Genius or Leader?


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