We expect leaders to lead others, acting as a source of inspiration and infusing confidence. They are always expected to help remove all obstacles and clear the path for others to reach their goals. However, have we ever wondered who provides the same leadership to them – who leads the leader?
Reflecting on this question, it seemed prudent to first understand the scenarios when a leader needs to be led and then answer how they work through it. Here is my take on a few scenarios.
- Conflict: This one is easy. Oh, is it? I am not talking about conflict of ideas or beliefs or disagreement over strategies and plans. This is about conflict of values and purpose. What do you do when that what you stand for, is violated? When the values you hold dearly, are overlooked (or worse, run over) by someone you care about? This is not folklore, to be found only in business school case studies. It does happen. What do you do when your top grossing salesman is limiting everyone around, demeaning them or when your top lieutenant can’t work with anyone? Where do you draw the line?
- Working through fog: In today’s disruptive world, predicting what lies ahead is difficult for anyone. Try foretelling the next frontier in technology, business, management or marketing? Leaders are not clairvoyant yet we expect much from them. Keeping the organization (or function or team) moving through the fog of uncertainty is no easy task, especially when the path itself may be missing. How does one make the decision about when to move or where?
I have come to believe that in times like these, leaders usually just dig in and find the courage from within. Their spouse, friend, coach or confidante may help through this phase, but it is their rite of passage. Leaders recognize that making the choices isn’t hard or easy. It is their emotions tied to the choices that make it difficult. That, right or wrong is relative and overlooking the problem will only delay the inevitable. They dig in not only to find answers, but also to assemble new questions. They recognize that a brave person is not who does not feel afraid, but who conquers that fear. That the current challenge is temporary and a test of their endurance.
I believe Martin Palmer was right in saying “The secret to mastery in any field is to forever be a student.” Leading others is a matter of great responsibility which is easier said than done. Before embarking on that journey, let’s begin by first asking how am I leading myself?
What do you think?