The Choice in Leadership
For as long as we have managers, leadership will always be fallible, messy, exciting, rewarding, and conveniently dismissed. This is not to bash management. This is more a statement of being human. A reality glaringly staring us in the face easily overlooked because of its simplicity. And perhaps one we don’t like.
Often when a breakdown in leadership occurs we are dismayed. I know I am. At the same time I wonder what was the leadership choice that led to the breakdown. Think about the deceit of Herman Caine or John Edwards. Or go back to 2007 when Radio Shack’s management decided to fire employees through email.
There was no triumphant rise of leadership from Cain or Edwards or Radio Shack’s management leading up to their respective choices. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, the misguided choices that led to these leadership breakdowns also pepper our own experiences. Perhaps your choices didn’t yield such grave outcomes. But we all have stood in the messes from our misguided choices.
Though I have no way of knowing what was excitedly running through Cain’s or Edwards’s thoughts before choosing to have an affair, their choices clearly were not selfless. Radio Shack chose to see 400 employees as numbers on a balance sheet instead of people with families and responsibilities who need help transitioning from employment to unemployment.
See, in your interactions with others you’ve learned mental shortcuts that aim to preserve your sanity and ability to make sense of your world. It’s a coping mechanism.
We all do it. The trouble, however, is those of us unaware of this overlook the choice in leadership that separates greatness from mediocrity.
The choice in leadership is to ignore the nagging voice of our personal wants, desires, preferences. Such simple tugs on the brain may not be fitting for the circumstances. On the precipice of choice, we must look at the situation and let what is needed guide our leadership actions. This isn’t a matter of altruism, but a matter of integrity and fairness.
When you accept a management role, along with it comes leadership responsibilities. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. The two come together. It’s a package deal. The moment you accept the responsibility of management is when you accept the responsibility of guiding your team to reach wide and deep to do great work. Despite what the Cains, Edwards and Radio Shacks of the world show us, to put self-importance over the team’s will surely lead to breakdowns leading to mediocrity.
If you ask me what one thing leadership in the 21st century holds, it’s that managers fully grasp the significance and duty they have to employees, customers, the community, and finally stakeholders. The choice in leadership is to accept the selfless work that follows.
Graphic by Shawn Murphy