An Ancient Practice
Surveys show that a large percentage of people don't trust leaders now that leadership is urgently needed to create collaboration for the common good. People distrust leaders because they aren't sure what to expect from them or they expect them to act badly. There have been all too many examples of leaders in business and government with deficits in competence and character.
Leadership should be a calling. If I ask people to follow me, I should be able to communicate a purpose that they can believe in. They should follow me because I am working for their benefit as well as for other stakeholders. However, there are many people who seek leadership positions, not because they want to lead people, but rather to gain status and power.
For over 35 years, I have taught leadership and coached leaders. From the time of Confucius, leadership gurus have taught would-be leaders useful wisdom such as to "walk the talk" and know and continually develop yourself so that you will be able to develop others. An early leadership coach was Moses's father-in-law, Jethro, who told him he was wearing himself out trying to solve everyone's problems and that he should learn to delegate.
Good leaders keep learning about themselves, the people they lead and the challenges they face. Today, we are in the midst of tumultuous challenge and change. Leaders need to question everything they have learned about leadership and organization. The autocratic leader in a bureaucratic structure cannot create the collaboration essential to solve complex problems. The question is not whether leadership can and should be taught. Rather, we should ask what should leaders be learning and unlearning and how can those of us who observe and study leadership help them to become the kind of leaders we need.
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