When a gosling hatches, it immediately looks around until it locates a bright moving object and then instinctively follows that wherever it goes. Following is the most natural thing on earth. Leading, on the other hand, takes work. Leadership is many things, but it is not a target or something that can be figured out or wielded only when a situation demands. It is a skill that needs to be constantly practiced and developed. It is a verb not a noun. John Kennedy said it best when he wrote, “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
A couple of years ago I attended the University of Chicago Booth for a week-long executive class called High Performance Leadership. I loved it. As we studied leadership the professor made it clear that about 2% us will never have leadership capacity, and 2% of us can do it in our sleep. However, most of us or 96% have an average level of leadership capacity. It’s the most of us that have the opportunity to develop the courage, capacity and wisdom to increase our leadership capacity. My teacher, Linda Ginzel, believes that very few people are born leaders and very few don’t have the capacity at all. She wrote a very good book called “Choosing Leadership.” Bottom line from the class and the book: you can’t wing leadership. And so that means all the qualities in the diagram are important for leaders to think about and intentionally work on every day.
Let me give you a true Lisa example. In the Chicago Booth class, we had to share something that people who we work with say about us directly to us or what we hear from others about what they say. Mine was easy. The first thing people always say to me when they address me is, “I know you are so busy, but . . . “(this really bothers me as I never want to be too busy for our employees).
The class then asked me to explain my typical day. I leave my house on the phone to one of my BioZyme® colleagues. I drive to work still on the phone. I pull into the parking lot still on the phone, usually to a different colleague. I get all my stuff out of the car still on the phone. I go into the building and walk all the way down the main hall to my office on the phone. That’s where I got stopped by my classmates. They said that my entrance into the building and hall walk sends the message from the git-go that I am busy. That’s winging it. I can’t wing it. So, now I sit in the parking lot until I can be off the phone and come in and continue all the way down the hall saying good morning. This seemed a bit dumb to me as I felt I was just maximizing time, but the more I studied choosing leadership, the more I realized talking on the phone like that is winging it and not focusing on being more sincere.
Taking this type of action (changing) is hard work but choosing leadership as a skill not a trait and honing it through both reflection and practice will change your future, and it’s a verb worth embracing.