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  • Writer's picturePhil Cole

What Leadership Looks Like

I want to demonstrate what leadership really is -- what it looks like in the real world.

Think of this as the output of the leadership system that occurs in your head.

To do this, close your eyes, forget what's around you, and imagine that you walk into a new, unfamiliar room. What would you do?

You might pause and look around,

Or think about what you see.

You might explore a bit.

Now imagine that another person walks into the room. What do you do? What do they do? When do you begin to talk to them, and what do you say?

Now let's add a third and fourth person and see what happens.

The four people in the room, including you, are interacting in a perfectly normal human fashion -- introducing themselves, asking questions to learn more about each other, and exploring the new physical and relationship world around. Each of these people is very likely acting in a way that feels comfortable and natural, perhaps even enjoyable. At very least, they're doing what is expected of each of them in this kind of situation -- being moderately social, building relationships of the new-acquaintance variety, and so on.

This isn't leadership, yet -- not exactly.

So let's transform the situation by making something happen.

It doesn't matter what this is -- in our world, it could be the people deciding to go somewhere for lunch as a group, or the fire alarm going off, or any number of other things. In this generic example, we'll say it is an event that requires the people to pay attention and then do something collectively.

As the situation develops, each person would continue to act in a manner that feels most comfortable to him or her given that each is choosing between the different available courses of action that affect them all. For some, this preference is to defer to others, or to freeze. For others, it is to take action -- propose ideas and opinions, be scared and run away, and so on.

At some point, one or more of the people may begin to form a plan of action and communicate their plan to the others. This communication might be easy and direct, or complex and difficult.

The moment that the individuals begin to act together to take a course of action is when this otherwise leaderless group has begun to experience leadership.

At that moment, the three leadership cores are present -- learning as the data required to come up with a plan of action, human relationships in the communication of the plan between each person, and vision in the shared direction of the people taking part in the plan together.

This sounds simple, and it is. Though this scenario makes a number of assumptions, it illustrates how leadership actually takes place, often without us noticing. Whether going to a group lunch or escaping a burning building, the interactions between those involved are affected by the same three cores. This is true in the real world, too -- it applies to any group acting together, whether a sprawling multinational corporation or a group of friends planning a killer party.

I hope that simplifying leadership in this way helps you to see it more clearly. When we begin breaking down the cores and the way they link together, remember this example. Also, look for it in your daily life -- you will notice how ubiquitous leadership is around us, and how we each use it to accomplish the possible futures we want to turn into reality.

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