Leadership is sexy and popular. Amazon lists over 100,000 books with “leadership” in the title. Type “leadership blogs” into Google and you get 197,000,000 results in about half a second. There’s “authentic leadership” and “true leadership” and “real leadership” and leadership with any number of stars. Maybe it’s time for a little straight talk.
Leadership in a leadership position is different
If you’re responsible for the performance of a team, then leadership is part of your job. Other people can lead without position, but they can always opt out. You can’t. I’m writing this post for people who are willing to take on the challenge of leadership with position.
Leadership is important, but it’s not everything
Management matters. That’s the work where you juggle groups and priorities. Do it well and no one will notice. Mess it up and you will be ineffective.
Supervision is important. That’s the part of your job where you help individual team members grow and develop. This is also the important part of your work where you develop relationships with team members, mostly through conversation.
Leadership by example
If you are responsible for the performance of a team, everything you do is leadership by example. You don’t get a choice about this. Your only choice is whether to set a good example, or not.
Leadership is situational
You aren’t a leader all the time. Sometimes you’re a follower. Sometimes you’re both at once.
Leadership requires reflection if you want to do it well
Leadership work involves setting the direction for group progress. That means taking time to reflect on events and outcomes and people and abilities and challenges.
Leadership requires courage
If you’re responsible for the performance of a team, many of the things you’re required to do demand courage. That may mean holding the line on an ethical issue, even if no one else seems to care. It means talking to team members about performance and behavior. Sometimes it means protecting your team from your boss or the company.
Leadership might not be for you
If you’re looking for applause, you probably won’t be an effective leader. Those men and women tend to give praise and credit to the team and take blame on themselves. They’re more likely to throw themselves under the boss than a team member.
If you’re a control freak, leadership probably isn’t for you. When you’re responsible for the performance of a team, their performance is your performance.
Leadership can be wonderful work
But if you like helping other people succeed, leadership is the most rewarding job on the planet.