The Dakota Indians had a common wisdom that said when one is riding a dead horse the best strategy is to dismount. Too often, leaders tend to over-think this dilemma by implementing myriad strategies that ignore the horse. Our challenge is to think beyond the cliché leadership skills that have been incessantly discussed and instead seek a new and innovative approach to developing organizational leaders and strategies. It is time to depart with the old and bring in the new. In the words of the great philosopher Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-changin’.”
Leadership, even in its simplest form, remains an important set of skills. But it is time for a new conversation about how we think about the topic of leadership. No longer is it sufficient to simply regurgitate the same old language that we have always used. Instead, we need to consider different words that are somehow fresh, more contemporary. What follows is the start of this new dialogue.
Action. Performance in any organization demands action. Action is critical to effective leadership; conversely, inaction can doom even the best leaders. Inherent in the makeup of leaders is the need to accomplish. Ronald Reagan, when speaking on leadership, remarked “recognize that a willingness to take decisive action is a hallmark of an effective leader. People want to know where you stand so they will know where they stand.”
Action in the new leadership mantra suggests effective performance where leaders have sufficient energy and means to get things done. “
Challenge. As leaders, our abilities are often tested by others within the organization. Not a direct, in-your-face challenge, but a more subtle approach whereby we are faced with utilizing dormant skills or addressing new and creative problems. “The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy.” Faced with many obstacles in his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. understood a challenge. Yet, as an example for leaders through the generations, he used challenge as a means of stimulating change and engaging others in an embodiment of this change.
Guts. Leaders often provide others reassurance in tough times; a sort of shelter in the storm. This instills confidence in those who look to the leader for guidance. But this requires a level of fortitude and self-confidence that is not easy to muster. Ralph Waldo Emerson has been attributed as saying “whatever you do, you need courage. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right.” Time and again leadership requires an integrity that allows for courage to take hold despite a maelstrom of opposition and pressure.
Imagination. Aristotle Onassis, shipping magnate and once among the world’s richest men, famously had a plaque on the wall of his office that read “find a way, or make one.” Like many successful leaders, Onassis didn’t make excuses or tolerate them. He sought creative ways to achieve success. Leadership is about an unyielding curiosity and the pursuit of new and original ideas. By thinking holistically across organizational silos, leaders harness imagination and creativity to accomplish the vision.
Leadership is about an unyielding curiosity and the pursuit of new and original ideas. “~ Hampton Hopkins Tweet this
Partner. It is important to serve as a partner with customers, peers, stakeholders, employees or anyone who has an interest in the organization. By partnering with others, leaders collaborate to define the future of the organization. Direction and strategy are established in the best interest of all partners and more importantly, each partner shares in the risk. When considering all who have an interest in the organization, communication is enhanced, disputes are limited, and progress is achieved. Winston Churchill got it right when he stated “if we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail.”
I have offered five fresh ways to think about leadership development and have more that I will be sharing over the next few weeks. This new look at old leadership is by no means abandoning our understanding of tried and true leadership in favor of something more radical. Instead, it is suggested that leadership be viewed more in terms of the competencies required in this new world order.
I would love to hear how you are thinking about leadership differently.