Leadership and the ontological question
Before addressing a topic like leadership, as delicate as it is inflated by literature, perhaps it would be good to ask the "ontological question": what is leadership? The question is addressed to all those who want to go beyond the usual ideas, already ground several times and offered with any type of cultural, corporate or pseudo-scientific "condiment".
Probably, it is "simply" to focus and in order those knowledge and experiences that already belong to us and that we ourselves grasp and record distractedly and unconsciously in our daily practice. So, back to the question: what is leadership? Is it a set of qualities that, taken as a whole, substantiate the word or is it an inconsistent abstraction?
In short, in order to define leadership is it necessary to lead by example of a leader or can we isolate the recurring characteristics that define leadership, regardless of individual incarnations? The question is fundamental, because if leadership is only a personal and natural characteristic and it is not learned or transmitted, the whole discourse collapses. If a leader is born, all the existing literature on the subject is useless and meaningless.
As for me, I said to myself that no, leadership, when it goes beyond pure and simple charisma, is a real technique for guiding a group of people towards a goal. What I have in mind is not the usual character who manages to influence the company on which movie to go to see or where to spend the holidays, but someone who with methodology and knowledge is able to lead people with different characteristics towards a common goal and shared.
I would like to weaken the idea that leadership is like height or color of eyes or hair, that is, something that comes with people, to reinforce the idea that it is an acquired activity through knowledge and exercise. For this reason I am not satisfied with recognizing in leadership only the charismatic function of those who are naturally endowed with persuasive capacity. What I propose is a rational and methodological vision of leadership.
It is completely useless to list a series of skills and abilities that cannot be renounced for the leader, if one does not take the trouble to explain how these are accessible and how to learn and exercise them. It is only with a rational approach and, therefore, valid and viable for everyone, that leadership becomes a technique and ceases to be an innate quality. Beyond the proclamations of the various schools of thought, the concrete approach to leadership remains elitist and exclusive.
The reality is that leadership is the ability to coordinate and make effective all the contributions that a group of people makes in a certain context. It is not an absolute quality of the leader, it is the expression of the existing balances in the context in which leadership is expressed. It represents the best possible choice that the group, more or less unconsciously, makes. The social dynamics of leadership are marked by the principle of the common good, as an ancestral expression of the survival instinct.
Of course, in the business environment, leaders are often chosen upstream of the spontaneous selection processes, but, even more so, they need to acquire the tools to express themselves and to make their team members express themselves. The leader I have in mind has the methodology to manage the complexities that lurk in the folds of an organization. But what are these skills? Here they are:
The nine skills listed, which obviously do not exhaust the possible skills of a leader, are all acquired through a path of personal growth. Even creativity, which would seem to recall a characteristic totally ascribable to an innate gift, is the result of an exercise in self-enhancement. I believe that giving rationality the right weight in the configuration of a leadership model makes it more realistic and, above all, achievable by any reasonable person.
It is an operation of democratization of the process of access to leadership, without resorting to sophistication and imaginary multiple intelligences. In short, I believe that if a manager has a rational method, he can concretely start to change their behavior on the path of their self-realization as a leader. This, at least from my point of view, is one of the possible answers to the ontological question.
About the author
Giuseppe Ando is a C-Level & Executive Coach - Associate Partner at the acclaimed Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching. With a career that presides at the crux of the Venn diagram of Passion, Skills, and Experience, Giuseppe’s reputation as top executive coach has spanned decades. Among his many accolades, he is also recognized for his unique ability to understand and inspire those he coaches to excel professionally and personally while also delivering their organization’s desired results.