Leadership is an UFO. Who’s able to catch it?

Small selection of my leadership and business management booksAs a man of faith – by the way a typical modern tag for a religious person without the need or putting effort into specifying which one – I was triggered by Leadership in one word: faith, an areligious confession made by Bruce Kasanoff from Forbes on July 23, 2015. So far, I adhered to the short summary: influence, as made popular by John C. Maxwell. Leadership is Influence, nothing more, nothing less.

Kasanoff’s then colleague at Forbes, Joseph Grenny, published in 2012 Four Reasons Why Leaders Lack Influence, in which he quoted Tim Tassopoulos, COO of Chick-fil-Aleadership is intentional influence. He couldn’t agree more.

What starts with faith or influence as overall trait, continues with an additional 10-100 behavioral characteristics, personality traits, results, and consequences. Large articles, impressive books or even complete book series on leadership are written. Most of these are convictions, strong beliefs, unattainable ideals, just like that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Earlier in July I read and reviewed The Complete 101 Collection: What Every Leader Needs to Know by John Maxwell. The series contain introductions on leadership, attitude, relationships, self-improvement, teamworking, equipping and success. After turning the very last page, I could really relate to Kasanoff’s sigh “….I grew so tired of leadership books that I couldn’t even walk into a bookstore for fearing of seeing another.”

Leverage your leadership level

It’s not enough to write a vision document or mission statement. One-liners don’t change people’s lives or behaviours. Forget motivational posters or tweets with obvious quotes.

What’s the added value of sharing your (self-appointed) leadership level? Both John C. Maxwell (in The Five Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential, there’s a summary online for the ones loving short cuts), as well as Jim Collins (in Good to Great) distinguish 5 levels of leadership, though defined differently.

Instead of performing another self-test, it would be better to leverage your assumed leadership level. Note that these levels are only labels put on statistically significant outcomes of a sample of questionnaires or interviews taken from leaders on – often – their own testimonies.

Try lead volunteers

Leadership is about earning and retaining the faith of others, says Kasanoff. Maxwell challenges you to take up leadership of a volunteer organization, e.g. church, charity, community. Volunteers don’t owe you anything. If they choose to follow and stay with you, it is not based on your position, function title, or their salary. It is not by coincidence that the very concept of servant leadership is based on Jesus Christ and His 12 followers, knowing that one of them would betray Him on the same evening as He practiced what He preached by washing feet (read more in John 13).

To lead is a verb; leadership is a noun

leadershipbookPractice what you read, learned and preached about. Inspire, transpire. Sometimes you will fail, sometimes you’ll be more successful. There are no silver bullets, no endless plateaus of leading well. To lead will hurt as well satisfy. It may be fueled by passion, as much as you may suffer from it. Fast Company Magazine concludes: Leadership is Confusing as Hell.

Leading people is hard work, though labor of love. Leadership is a noun, a topic to talk about for hours. Despite the many books, leadership stays a rather unidentified object, volatile, and multidimensional. I still can’t catch leadership in a single word or phrase. Nor can I throw away 99 other books after reading a single title on leadership. Can you?