Maybe I’m getting crotchety in my later professional years, but I really am feeling a lot of déjà vu from the spate of leadership books and articles out there that reduce leadership to five - or six, seven, or eight - steps for success. Publishers say that this is what sells and that people don’t read books or have time to think anyway.
I certainly have worked with many great leaders who take the role seriously enough to deeply think about it. These are courageous folk who recognize that leadership is not a five-point step-by-step process, who realize (as my former business partner once said) that most important leader decisions are based on a 51 to 49 ratio of failure to success. In interviews with leaders about their significant learnings, the top one is always, “I learned more from my failures than anything else!” – thus confirming that learning is a very complex and engaging process.
Have we lost the willingness and tenacity to enter the uncertainties of organizational life and help our leaders to “sit in the fire” where the answers are not readily available, but intentions, consciousness, awareness of nuance are the keys to creating something great?
Let’s stop being afraid of messiness, of failure, of not having (but seeking) the answers, of delving into the messier areas of leadership – issues of power, consciousness, perspective, even emotions.
My question to you: what ideas do you have about how to better prepare leaders – beyond the step-by-step formulae?