A quick search on Amazon…
for books addressing the subject of Leadership reveals over 40,000 titles on the subject! And new volumes are added every day!! What is this about?
- Is the art and science of leadership evolving at such a pace that new theories are continuously needed to keep up with it?
- Are individuals craving better leadership from their bosses?
- Do bosses want to practice more effective leadership?
- Is the meaning of leadership elusive?
Perhaps it is all of these things! We are hungry for good leadership. But with so many voices claiming special insight on leadership, it can feel challenging to get a handle on the true essence of leadership.
Through years of pursuing a better understanding of leadership, and striving to be a good leader, I’ve sifted through many models and theories. Some are complex and lengthy. Some are simple and brief. Some leadership theory is captured in helpful graphics, models and relational charts. Some is captured in pithy quotes.
Here are a few thoughts on what leadership is and how to show up as a true leader.
Why Is Leadership Important?
This past week I listened to the Tim Ferris Show podcast with Ken Burns talking about his life as a creator of documentary films. He said …
“I was with a group of students recently, and I told them that every film I’ve done was at least a million problems. But I didn’t think that the word problem was necessarily pejorative, I believe every problem represents friction that needs to be overcome with the necessary friction of the creative process.”
Ken Burns is certainly a leader in documentary film making. I like the way he frames problems as the “necessary friction of the creative process”. We should expect problems. If we’re ready to grow, change, and create new things, perhaps we can even come to relish problems.
The world and our day-to-day lives are filled with problems! Problems challenge us to get from a present situation that’s less than ideal to a future envisioned situation that’s bigger and better.
Leadership, is problem solving! It helps us know which future to envision. Which way to go. How to make the journey from failure to success, from good to great!
We see examples of leadership in the myriad of books and articles written about it. But if we’re not careful we might think we can follow a set of actions, or learn about leadership competencies and achieve leadership just by doing the right things.
A Bridge to Leadership
But the highest form of Leadership is really about BEING a leader! Not checking off lists of leadership competencies we KNOW or leadership activities we DO.
I like the simple model put forth in a book by Drake and Burns called the “Know – Do – Be Framework” Just look at the picture below and you’ll get it.
Being or becoming anything first requires that foundational knowledge and experience are present. Then the magic of BEING someone new or different can appear.
I can know what leadership is and not be a great leader. I can do things that leaders do and not be a great leader. Leadership is not something you KNOW or DO. It is something you know and do so well that you BECOME the embodiment of leadership in the exercise of it!
What We Must Know
The following model from Stewart Leadership has been helpful to me. At Infusionsoft, we had our own summary version of this leadership model with the following primary elements:
- Set the Vision
- Multiply People
- Deliver Results
We added Core Values to the center of the model for some added dimension on How and Why we do these things.
This model provides a pretty complete view of the dimensions of leadership, from internal to external focus and from business results to people results. I like that about it. It conveys the things I need to KNOW about leadership competencies and a way for me to think about what I should DO across all of my leadership responsibilities. In practice, I’ve looked at problems through the lense of this model and gotten better clarity about where problems are coming from and what I might work on to effectively lead and execute.
But where the model falls short for me is in conveying what it means to BE a leader. I can see what needs to be done, but I’m left to myself to know when, where, and how to do it.
Being A Leader
When I discovered the Entrepreneurial Operating System Model shown below, I saw a leadership model that transcended the gap from merely Knowing and Doing leadership to Being great leaders!
The EOS Model – like the previous model – shows what we need to KNOW and DO. It also provides an interconnected business framework that helps leaders know when, where, and how to BE Leaders!
- Set the Vision / Create Purpose is covered in the 8 Questions of the Vision Component. Leaders understand that for the Vision to be “Shared by All” it must be clearly articulated and communicated to everyone in the company on a regular basis. It is reviewed and refined quarterly
- Multiply People / Develop Self and Others is covered in the People component. With the Accountability Chart to define the Roles of each Seat, and the People Analyzer to review Core Values Fit and assess whether they GWC their Seat (do they Get it? Want it? And have the Capacity to do it?), we help people grow and develop. Reviewed with each team member in Quarterly Conversation as well as in Leadership team Quarterly planning
- Innovate / Lead Change – By defining Rocks in the Traction component and resolving Issues, Leaders and team members Innovate and lead change on a weekly Meeting Pulse in their Level10 meetings. As teams work through the friction of problems that come up on the Issues List, great solutions are created and To Do’s are followed up on weekly to ensure progress
- Deliver Results / Excellence – By creating a focused Scorecard, leadership teams see on a weekly basis the key levers that deliver results in the business. This visibility promotes excellence with visibility to Goals that are either On Track or Off Track. Excellence in delivering value to Customers is also driven by the Process component. When Processes are Documented and Followed by All, leaders can manage and measure proper execution to ensure effective, efficient, scalable business operations.
You can see that the way the tools and disciplines of the EOS Model are implemented, goes beyond Knowing and Doing leadership traits and activities, and moves leaders toward BEING great leaders by showing when, where, and how these important facets of leadership come into play for leaders and team members.
Leadership is Teamwork
Here’s another important factor in BEING a leader. I teach that Leadership starts with a Leadership Team. Truly great leadership does not happen in an isolated function under one great leader. As goes the leadership team, so goes the rest of the company. If you want the company to BE unified and transparent, vulnerable and open, the Leadership Team must BE unified, transparent, vulnerable and open.
I also teach teams to operate in Integrity – without it, a leader can never be in flow. Integrity is being true to your word, including being true to yourself. If I have to think and calculate every leadership move, I’m bogged down in the overhead of Doing leadership…I’m “using” leadership.
Being Used by Leadership
On the other hand, when I get to a point of Being a leader, then “leadership uses me” … I become the perfect manifestation of leadership in every situation because I KNOW and DO the right things – AND I’m BEING a leader… That is, leadership is flowing through me as a natural manifestation of who I am… the deep integration of what I know and do combined with the purpose, energy and love of why I do it in the first place.
‘I can teach companies to KNOW and DO right things, but the breakthroughs come when leaders have a different energy that powers them! They are filled with Purpose, Drive, and Integrity. These “intangibles” represent what it means to BE a Leader who “shows up” differently.
Peter Drucker, an influential management thinker from the 80s and 90’s once said “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
The Essence of True Leadership
I suggest that successful, growing businesses today are calling for us to show up and BE the right leaders… KNOWING and DOING Leadership will not be enough to inspire your team! Knowing and Doing leadership will not be enough to deliver on your brand promise and provide the rich, connected value your customers expect!
BEING the right leader means showing up with thoughts, actions, words and energy that are true to yourself … A natural manifestation of your love for the people (inside and outside your company) and a love for the cause that you’re engaged in!
What do you think? Comment below …