Dealing with contradiction in leadership

People are contradictory.  They say one thing and do another, they think they mean one thing when they really mean something else, they think they are being helpful as they cut you to the quick and their lips move while their bodies talk a different language. There is no use fighting it, that is the way we are made.  Our lives are a constant tension between what we are and what we think we are.

There is a similar tension when we are at work between the need for us to do rather than for us to just be.  I often had this conversation with my Leadership Team.  ‘I don’t want you to do anything’ I would say, ‘I just want you to be.’  

Leadership for me is much more about being a leader than doing this or that.  Being a leader gets things done while doing as a leader means that you end up doing it all.  

As Linda Cliatt-Wayman, a Philadelphia high school principal with an unwavering belief in the potential of all children, said ‘If you are going to lead, lead.’  Having the title of leader comes with responsibilities that you have to live up to.  This is a difficult transition for most of us.  Leadership, like all skills is learnt.

This is a gross over-simplification.  Of course leaders do stuff, yet this is not the prime skill that must be demonstrated.  To lead we need to recognise that we don’t need to be involved in everything yet we do need to be involved in something.  Being involved sends a clear signal that this is important and so we must choose what to get stuck into.  

We need to recognise that we can’t lead on our own and that we all need to come together sometimes.  Leadership is a team sport.  

We also need to recognise that leadership is a skill and ask ourselves when our skill set is to lead and when it is to be the specialist.

Being a leader is complicated.  Everyone can demonstrate leadership some of the time yet no one can demonstrate it all of the time.

Leadership is not about doing, it is about being.

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