“I believe people who crave leadership responsibilities don’t make very good leaders.”Barry Hilton
The best leaders arrive by circumstance not through career planning. Leaders need to be most prominent when things are going wrong. When everything is fine, letting others bask in success is emotionally intelligent leadership behaviour. At a time when our national and global leadership is rightly under the microscope, it is apposite to reflect on the challenges facing leaders at every level of society and recognize that all leadership challenges are scalable. From presidents and CEOs to supervisors, the expectation of great nations or small teams are much the same.
People expect answers but often, leaders are barely half a paragraph ahead of everyone else in the unfolding story. People demand the right to criticize but would not want leadership responsibilities. People are scared, frustrated, unsure and want everything to be okay, but at the same time are uninterested in levels of detail which makes leadership decisions complicated. Bad news grabs headlines and makes the bearer interesting. Good news has far less currency. That is just human nature and it is also the backdrop to leadership. These days, the period of collective patience has diminished. Glance at the English Premiership for evidence of Amazon-driven expectations of instant success and gratification.
Leadership during the last twenty months of relentless uncertainty, fear, bad news, crises and disruption has taken its toll on leaders, but it is in times like these that we need good leaders more than ever. We need realism balanced by reassurance. We need honesty, but must be prepared to take some personal responsibility and contribute to any solution. We need a realistic vision not one conjured up to sustain popularity and create short term public pacification. We need shared and inclusive goals that encourage mutual support, compassion and a common purpose. We also need to recognize that leaders cannot appease all of the people all of the time and on occasion, many of us will be unhappy with a well-intentioned decision. Leaders need to be close enough to empathize but distant enough to maintain objectivity. Over the past twenty months that brief has been stretched well beyond normal limits. There are titles and there is leadership. Around us every day are countless examples of outstanding leadership performed by people with no official mandate or badge of rank. Watch who is followed or listened to in moments of indecision, fear, danger or panic. Leadership is everywhere and we don’t need subtitles, business cards, or gold braid to point us toward our leaders. You will know them when you see them.