Wanna be a good leader?
There are countless stories, articles, books etc available on leadership (now there's +1) yet many if not all are focused on the leader in action. Let's think about the leader in inaction. Its not an oxymoron.
In more than a few shops the leadership model is apparently based on a sense of furious activity. It can be a daunting task trying to understand the priorities much less strategy. Some confuse action with leadership: ready, fire, aim.
Yet there's another model that is not, as the saying goes, just as effective but in fact better.
Reflective leaders are more powerful than reactive ones
- Know their limits
– they can't be everywhere at once, direct every decision, weigh in on every topic. Enabling others means setting the right direction while honoring the right values, and trusting people. These leaders know that trust and responsibility are two sides of the same coin: you can't give one without the other. So the leader becomes humane and human, and lets people grow
- Allow grey
– leadership by definition is going where we haven't been before. Going down a well-worn path is simply being a tour guide. Thus reflective leaders are at peace with the concept of grey: while trying to anticipate challenges these leaders don't react to the unknown. They accept, internalize and move on
- Step back
– staying “in the fray” eventually wears you out. Projects requiring everyone to put in crazy days and nights eventually just make everyone, well, crazy. Reflective leaders step back routinely to assess their own feelings, monitor others and connect with the stimuli while not being in it. They might seem remote: they're actually deeper into the process thinking several steps ahead
– you can't reflect on what hasn't been heard. The annals of leadership failures are full of the wrecks of leaders driven aground by their own hubris and inability to listen to the team. Reflective leaders not only listen but actively seek the input of stakeholders. The best of them actually listen without responding. Unnerving? Perhaps. Until you understand they're synthesizing your input like no one else you've ever worked for
- Use words intentionally – ah the charismatic leader! Oh for the opportunity to soldier on for a silver-tongued star – NOT! Reflective leaders use fewer words in written and spoken form because words matter. Give people a concise goal with an expansive unstated meaning and watch them flourish. Give them a manifesto and watch them flounder. Less is more
Reflective leadership is a higher model. It calls for confidence in one's approach even as the team members and on-lookers wish for the familiar frenzied activity of their past experience.
Yet the reflective leader understands its collective effort that achieves anything worthwhile, and collaboration is not built on the backs of lemmings but in the spread of creativity and decision-making throughout the team.
Being reflective is more challenging for the leader.
Yet better for us all.