Questioning our (often unconscious) assumptions about leadership:
Strong? Decisive? Heroic? Visionary? Charismatic? Great communicators? Courageous?
We can quickly end up with a super-human job description for leaders that then feels out of reach for most of us. Yet for each of the words or images you identified about leadership and leaders’ qualities, skills, behaviours and attitudes, the opposite is also likely to be true.
For example, it’s great when those in leadership roles can:
- Stimulate reflection, creativity and/or collaboration to grow possibilities around the issues people are working on.
- Expand creative thinking (e.g. why, who, how, what, what if) compared to questions with simple yes/no answers.
- have a strong sense of self and show and cope with being vulnerable too
- offer decisive answers and also know when it is better to ask powerful questions to help a group find answers together
- inspire people with their own vision and be a good facilitator helping everyone’s voice to be heard in shaping a shared vision
- lead out front at times and be quiet nurturers of others, leading by walking alongside or behind, at other times
- be great communicators and great listeners
- be courageous in their actions and humble in their reflections
- help put plans, structures and systems in place and be comfortable working in situations that call for more organic, messy, one step at a time approaches.
So we can relax about what we expect leaders to know or be or do! From a CLD perspective, our aim is to grow a “leaderful” community, where people keep moving between different leadership roles depending on the situation. There are many different ways of ‘doing’ leadership. And the best leaders keep adapting their responses, based on what they are noticing is happening in the community around them.