September 8, 2010

Be a Leader...or Just Look Like One!

Does anyone remember that commercial on TV years ago for Barbazon Modeling School? Their slogan was "be a model...or just look like one".  I think that is a brilliant title for today's entry.  The industry of leadership is a hot one offering many conferences, books, motivational speakers, and courses that will sculpt and mold aspiring lower level managers to new heights. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, they only scrape the surface and provide superficial step by step, easy-to-follow equations for success without tackling the underlying assumptions.  So really, anyone can be a leader...or just look like one.

Personally, I have attended many leadership conferences (focusing on transformational leadership) with working peers only to go back to the real world and witness their transformation back to usual autocratic nonsense. Transformational leadership appears to be the "gold standard" of leadership styles at this point  suggesting the leader is able to transform a team from thinking "i" to "we". This type of leadership can bring people together and can create a sense of cohesion as teams work towards a common goal. If you want to see this in action (to perfection) see the movie "Invictus" staring Morgan Freeman. Brilliant!!!!!!!!!

The challenge with becoming a transformational leader, however, is you MUST have an awareness of yourself (strengths, weaknesses, motivations behind behaviour, and the like) and you must have the capacity to forgive. Grudges, ego, self promotion, serving self have no place in transformational leadership. To transform people you must show a sincere personal interest in each individual, must inspire others to go beyond their expectations, must role model your messages, and must demonstrate charisma in a way that motivates. 

Attending these motivational leadership conferences and keynotes are great (I'm flying to Vancouver in three weeks to go to one myself) but you also must be aware of the personal work that goes into transforming your own leadership style. Those that have achieved this are amazing leaders that stand out in the crowd and manage to make great change in their communities.  These people also posses a sense of self awareness, belief in a greater good, high level of ethics, a good heart, and the desire to positively effect the world.

If you want to inspire and lead to transformation there are some things you can do today that will influence your leadership tomorrow.  Be a role model for change, learn (and practice) the true meaning of forgiveness, examine your motivations for leadership - if the ego is involved; kick it to the curb - and examine your effect on others and how you may strengthen your weaknesses (we all have them). Finally, it is important to maintain a high level of health through sleep, nutrition, physical activity, emotional management, and the like.

I highly recommend the movie "Invictus" for anyone aspiring to transformational leadership.  From learning names, leading by example, and understanding what inspires others to sticking to his convictions, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) definitely walked the talk. When reminded that his actions may not get him re-elected next term, he replied (and I paraphrase)...As soon as a leader's decisions are based upon re-election, the leader looses all control to lead.  - good point

That's all I got.

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