We hear a lot about the difference between management and leadership. Science v art; doing things right v doing the right thing; bottom line v horizon; focus on systems v focus on people, etc. Organisations need people at the top who have all these things, both leaders and managers. By its nature leadership is the more intriguing and elusive of the two. People need managers, they long for leaders. What are the parallels between organisational leadership and personal leadership?
It is not worth trying to pin down the characteristics of effective organisational leadership. We can make a long list, but cannot agree on a shortlist. We are trying to embrace the strengths of Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa. Different situations call for different leadership responses. There are though, two related components I think are ever-present – vision and inspiration.
There is a bewildering array of terms that serve to confuse, distract and put some people off the notion of a vision. Put in simple terms, we need a big idea – an uplifting picture of the future; the view as to what things are going to be like when we get where we are going.
Literally – to breathe life into… the big idea. The attractive components that add up to inspiration are passion and consistency. In times of rapid change we need to prove adaptable – the opportunity to demonstrate consistency comes in adherence to our values.
The thing is, how can we hope to lead others unless we can lead ourselves? As individuals we are organisations. Each of us brings together our physical selves, mental selves, emotional selves, our talents, our energy, our willpower and our imagination. Personal leadership is a matter of bringing direction and harmony to these components. And the means to achieve this are the same as for any organisation – vision and inspiration, channelled through a big idea and adherence to personal values.
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