Something I read on Inc. this morning caught my attention. Margaret Heffernan was writing about her observations that the pipeline for female leaders is full to bursting point. She said that, during her interviews with women leaders, she asked the question “So what have you done to help other women?” Those who answered with confidence, listing what they had done, etc, were billed as real leaders by her. Those who gave blank stares were classified as not being real leaders, because they just “role modelled” and did not do the other stuff necessary for being counted as a leader.
I was rather surprised and commented on the post, but it did set me thinking. Heretofore I had always assumed that to be a great leader, one has to be, of course, a great role model, and that a great role model doesn’t practice what she preaches, she preaches what she practices! Margaret’s post made me pause and think. I realized that what she said was true. People often assume that “…just because I have done it, you should be able to do it, too. After all, I’ve already shown you how..” However, not everyone is able to simply watch you and then apply what they have learnt after watching you. The worldwide compulsory schooling system has ensured that whole generations of apathetic, self-seeking, slothful and non-thinking consumers have appeared on the scene, both to supply the workers that industry demands and also supplying the consumers for many of those same products of industry, without which consumers think life is not worth living. Strong statements? Think about it for a while.
So, it is often necessary for us as leaders to hold people’s hands and kick their butts as and when needed. Perhaps something to the order of 70% hand-holding and 30% butt-kicking. Whatever it is, at the end of the day, it is about developing great relationships with those we are supposed to lead. I wish I had known that when I was still in active Service. I had always assumed that people would give of their best automatically, follow procedures, be forthcoming with ideas for improvement and so on, just because that was how I was. I guess I know a little bit better now. Maybe even enough to qualify as a role model PLUS?