My Definition of Effective Leadership
How can we be effective leaders in our homes, schools, communities, businesses and relationships? This is a question that is passed around so much that it's almost too boring and overused to delve into. There is no one perfect definition of leadership, but I thought I would still take a moment to share what it is to me.
I came across my definition of leadership in the form of an analogy based on my experiences in hiking. One of my favorite things to do is to get out in nature and hike. It's not only a great form of exercise, but I always find that it helps to calm and reset my mind. One day when I was hiking I started to think about the relationship between my eyes and my feet. At first I would have expected that the eyes determined exactly where the feet would go, but I found that very rarely would my eyes be looking at my next step position at the same time that my foot would get there. This is because my eyes are leaders, not managers, and my feet are followers that have a great relationship with the leader.
Let me explain this beautiful relationship between the leader and the follower. As a person walks along a hiking trail, the eyes are looking ahead and around them to get a clear vision of what is to be expected. This information is processed clearly, and then transferred to the feet precisely. This is where the power is given to the followers (feet). There is no need for micro-managing or an overload in direction, because the vision is clear and the future is mapped out. Because of this, the followers (feet) know exactly what they should do and they find their way with minimal direction. The eyes do not need to show the feet exactly where to be, because the relationship is clear; "I, the leader, will give you, the follower, a clear view of what is coming and what needs to be achieved, and then I expect you to act in the best interests of the whole team so that we can move forward safely and effectively. I do not need to show you exactly where to be, because if my vision is clear and the path is in sight, you will know what to do. Any discrepancies can be solved along the way, but for now there is a mutual trust and clarity."
Without the eyes hiking would be very difficult. The feet would take hesitant steps, progress would be minimal, and the body would be in a state of confusion. As it is with hiking, every organization (be it a family, business, or community) needs "eyes" to see the proper way ahead. The world stops progressing when leaders stop seeing.
This is the big difference in my opinion between a leader and a manager. A manager needs to tell her team exactly what do and how to do it, but a leader focuses on the vision and big picture ideas, and then builds harmonious relationships with her followers so that there is mutual understanding and purpose. So what are you? A leader or a manager? Do you tell your children or coworkers exactly what to be, who to be, and how to be? Or do you give them a clear vision of what life could be, based on principles and truths, and then let them find the correct steps to get there based on your understanding and example? Think about this next time you're in a position of influence. Choose to be a leader and your followers will surprise you with the solutions that they come up with. Share a vision, not an instruction, and your team will impress you with the extent to which they are able to improvise based on that vision.