This is my reflection on leadership after reading the below publication:
Title: What Leaders Really Do
Author: John P. Kotter
Publisher: Harvard Business Review
HBR puts out essays, articles, and writings – and they’re about a dime a dozen. The favorite publisher of business educators and business leaders. Because of this, I decided to be very skeptic going when I started reading “What Leaders Really Do”. Why? I wanted to be sold. What do leaders really do? It sounds like a dumb question: leaders lead. Okay, great, what do leaders lead? And what is leadership? Am I a leader? If so, what do I really do? What are my perceptions of leading?
Before reading this piece, I was asked by my Sr. Manager, “what is the difference between leadership and management?” My typical response on this: managers handle the administrative, the guidelines, the rules, the finances, they tell people what to do and delegate. Leaders get people to align with the vision and common goals especially in a project or help people get on board to achieve a common goal. I still stand that this is a pretty good breakdown in my opinion, even after reading the article.
From the start, we learn about their definition of Leaders and Managers: “Managers promote stability while leaders press for change”. Further to this, leaders “don’t make plans; they don’t solve problems; they don’t even organize people. What leaders really do is prepare organizations for change and help them cope as they struggle through it.” I had no hesitations to agree with these statements. This is something I could agree with right away and not far from where I was going with my understanding of Management vs. Leadership. So, within the first few paragraphs, I was already sold. The discussion of management vs. leadership alone sucked me in to something I could not stop reading.
As I read through the article, I continued to ask myself: Am I a leader? What am I doing as a leader? What should I start doing? I’m glad I did this because I gained more during the reading while going through this process.
A leader drives vision… no, a leader strives to achieve a vision. Can a leader exist without a vision? I submit that a leader cannot exist without a vision. This was an important discussion in the article. If a leader is helping get through change, there has to be something on the other side. Every change has a start and a finish line, lack thereof would simply be chaos and unproductive in an organization. A leader must embrace a realistic vision to be successful, but that is not enough — a leader must embody a vision. The vision must be known, visible, and embraced at all levels in order to be successful; and it is the leaders job to get those around him to buy into that vision and make it a reality. The article covered a good discussion on alignment that covers this as well.
A leader must motivate. In the section: Motivating Versus Controlling and Problem Solving, I was inspired by this: “Good leaders motivate people in a variety of ways. First, they always articulate the organization’s vision in a manner that stresses the values of the audience they are addressing… Leaders also regularly involve people in deciding how to achieve the organization’s vision (or the part most relevant to the particular individual)…” I like this concept. Getting everyone on board and contributing to the big picture is crucial to the success of a vision.
This article really got me going on leadership and what it means. While reading – I thought of this:
What is the opposite of a leader? A Follower
What is the opposing of leading? Following
What is the opposite of a manger? An Employee
What is the opposite of managing? Taking direction
A leader needs followers, and if she doesn’t have followers, there is a problem. I love this conundrum, and it always makes me think of the Ted Talks by Derek Sivers on How to Start a Movement. “The first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in and of itself… The first follower is what turns a lone nut into a leader.” A brilliant observation, and something that fuels the idea of getting others to embrace your vision.
All the details and discussion aside, I think I’ve covered what I’ve gleaned from this article on What Leaders Do. I still need to revisit and ask myself: Am I a leader? What am I leading and what is my vision? What do I need to do better as a leader?
Yes, I am a leader. I have 2 visions, one I share with other leaders in my department and organization. The other vision is my own – on how I should live, and where I see myself going. I’m leading my employees, my peers, and my managers through our shared vision. I’m leading myself through changes in my own life. In order to be a better leader, I need to do more than acknowledge and embrace these visions, I need to embody them. I need to be transparent with my visions, and work with everyone in involved to help them buy-in and get us where we are going. Ghandi once said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” This is an inspiring quote to stand behind in the world of leadership.