Direction is the Beginning of Leadership

Last time, we talked about how leaderless leaders resort to power and authority to change others' behavior. We examined what this looks like in behaviors and the impact it has on the group. We also asked ourselves some hard questions about our own leadership, to see if we fall into this trap. Leadership cannot come from power or abuse of authority, nor can success for the group. We bring out excellence in others when we show them the meaning and value of their work and create relationships that support their productive contributions to the shared output.

So where do we start in our journey to replace power with leadership? With the end in mind.

The first thing we need is a clear understanding of what we want others to do. We have to see the organization's outcome and the contribution of individual behaviors. When we lack this understanding, we tend to work towards outcomes that are comforting to us. We try to make others behave in ways that we like, rather than those that are productive. We are often distracted by personality or idiosyncrasies rather than a member's performance of tasks.

This is why our exploration of leadership beings with the story of vision. Everything else in leadership builds from this story, from the direction and goals of the group. This is also why leadership is always situational: every vision is different, and therefore every set of leadership behaviors must also be unique.

Once we have this understanding, then we have to decide to lead. This means rejecting power and authority and instead finding ways that build others up and bring out their best. Deciding to lead also means accepting the difficulty and time required to build a shared vision and supporting relationships. Of course, the rewards of true leadership are vastly greater than these challenges over the long term.

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