I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to be at the top to lead. With a little audacity, anyone can take responsibility for something and make it happen. Whether you’re in a senior position or not, we can all stand up for each other and encourage those around us to become their best selves.
What’s the actual point?
But there is something you’ll need to understand if you want to get leadership right. And no, it’s not how to ‘project confidence’, nor am I here to peddle a bunch of subtle ways to make friends and influence people. You need to know what you’re actually trying to achieve when you step up to the plate and take the lead.
You see, modern business encourages us to be objective focused, so it gives us a goal, a serious sounding KPI. It’s usually some arbitrary number that’s 5% higher than the number was last year and measures something we all know isn’t actually the thing we need to be measuring. Let’s be clear, that’s management, not leadership. The difference is simple, leadership is focused on the actual outcomes of what we do; it’s about the results of our actions, not the sum of them.
Smashing, so what about those three little words I tempted you in with? They’re some of the most pervasive words around. You see and hear them every day you go to work – company, corporation and business – but do you know what they really mean? The answers hold the key to becoming a true leader.
From “com” meaning with or together and “panis”, Latin for bread, ‘company’ literally means, ‘those you break bread with’. A company should be a place where people sit down together and share food. That’s what the culture was meant to feel like. At the end of the day you are sharing a substantial part of your life with the people you work with, and they with you. As a leader, you don’t have to be best buds with everyone, but you should be taking some personal responsibility for their wellbeing. Talking with and listening to them over a simple meal is a simple way to do that.
BTW, did you know the French builders who worked on the statue of liberty would break for a 2hr lunch every day? A table would be set up with linen cloth and red wine for all. THAT’s the way to do it!
From the mid 15 Century (!) corporation came to mean “persons united in a body for some purpose”. Admittedly, in those days the purpose was largely plundering distant lands, but the point remains; there was a point to it all. “Purpose” is flying all over the place at the moment, but all we need to take from it here is the idea that there needs to be a big idea. Some clear reason why all this busy-ness is going on. A leader connects their work up to this higher purpose and shows those around them how their efforts add up to a greater change than any of them could have made alone.
I don’t know if I’m surprised or not to find the word ‘anxiety’ come up in the etymology of business. There are words like ‘diligence’ and ‘occupation” as you’d expect, but anxiety is an undeniable part of the word’s history. For me it begs a question, “if working hard is about diligently occupying your time with something, is the something you’ve chosen worth worrying about?” This is about personal leadership, or leadership of the self. Have you taken the bold path to pursue something worthwhile or are you worrying about something not worth the energy? When 37% of people in the UK consider their job to be “bullshit”, there’s clearly far more scope for taking personal leadership than has happened so far.
Oh, and happy Christmas x