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How to Develop Leaders

What Is Leadership?

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Let me answer your other question first. Sure. About so what is leadership? And what do we mean by an exercising leadership? Because it’s kind of a funny thing to these two words to put them together. It’s kind of strange in a way, right? A lot of people, and myself included, still kind of think about, you know, leaders, right, people who have some, like high position. And I’d have, you know, real power like a president or a CEO, President of a country CEO, of a company, a, a mayor of a city, something like this. And I still think that’s, that’s relevant.

But Ron Heifetz talks about that. And I think it’s an important distinction between leadership and authority. So you know, you can have authority figures, and we certainly need like a mayor, a CEO, a president. And we certainly need great leadership from our authority figures. But just because you have power position doesn’t mean you’re necessarily a good leader. I think probably a lot of people who are listening to this can probably think about people who have the big role or big title, you don’t see much leadership from them. And I think probably people who are listening to this right now, and you’re right, both take examples. I’m sure people don’t have much power, it’s already but man there, you can count on them to lead quite effectively.

So then what is this thing called leadership if it isn’t exactly the same thing as having a role or position as a leader or as an authority figure? And you know, Dean Williams is another amazing guy who taught at the Kennedy School. He also wrote a fantastic book with a foreword by the Dalai Lama called leading in a fractured world, it’s one of these leadership books that’s really worth reading, as is Ron’s books on leadership without his answers, and what is it leadership on the line, also very, very good books that I definitely recommend to folks who are listening here.

Dean talked about leadership as mobilizing people to confront and deal with problematic realities, in order to improve the human condition. I’ve always really liked that. So you’re gonna mobilize people to address some problem or opportunity in the world in order to improve the human condition? And the idea that you think this term mobilized? Like, how do I get people to address something that maybe they’re blind to, they have been avoiding, they’re struggling to deal with. And the moment you attach a verb to this idea of leadership, that it becomes an activity, and it becomes an activity that something someone does not a role that someone holds. And therefore, it can be done by anyone.

Because I’m sure, again, everybody who’s listening here, you know, maybe I don’t even care. Like whether you’re working now or not, or you’re always gonna be part of some social system, right? You’re, you’re a member of a family, you belong to certain. I don’t know associations or clubs, you’re part of a student body. At at your university, maybe you do have a job. And you probably, maybe not every day, but quite often see problems, issues, opportunities to make things better. And you got a choice, right? Are you going to step up and speak up and talk about it or not?

Well, when we, when we run, Dean, myself, you I think included? We think about exercising leadership, it is your deciding to kind of step up and see if you can mobilize and connect with other people to address those real issues. And so when I think about exercising leadership, but I think it’s the it is the the effective activity of mobilizing people to like the people around you, the groups that you’re part of the organizations that you work for, and the institutions upon which we all depend, mobilizing people to make all of that better, within or beyond your formal authority or your role.

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