Written by Matt Charney, Originally posted on MonsterThinking.com
Leadership is one of those soft skills, like “excellent communicator” or “team player,” which lies, almost exclusively, as it were, in the eyes of the beholder. Simply defining the term, and its impact on organizations, is an inherently subjective exercise.
After all, we like leaders who like us, and we’re attracted to leaders who are like us. So therein lies one of the biggest dilemmas of discussing leadership: leaders are defined not by their actions, but by the perceptions of those their actions effect.
And for leaders, the act of managing these often competing perceptions, public and personal, while building consensus, often detracts from or eliminates their ability to effectively, well, lead.
In today’s world of work, this need to manage perception and brand, both personal and professional, has led to a veritable cottage industry of consultants and gurus, training programs and certifications devoted to leadership theory, practice and development.
But ultimately, leadership isn’t a product that can be sold; it’s a characteristic that must be earned. And the leaders of today face unique challenges, struggling with a widespread lack of confidence by investors and employees, besieged with the twin burdens of internal expectations and external scrutiny.
Throw emerging technologies into the mix and it becomes clear that the more visible a leader becomes, the larger a target they become for the slings and arrows of social media, barbs from bloggers and digs from disgruntled employees.
To combat this, there seems to be an increasing trend to transform company culture into, effectively, a cult of personality. This means many leaders today are more preoccupied with lapping up the limelight and crowd sourcing for consensus than making tough, often unpopular decisions that, while benefiting their business, might come at the expense of their personal brands.
As the two become increasingly inextricable, however, this obviously becomes a difficult, if not impossible, decision to make. But as we learned in high school, leadership isn’t a popularity contest.
Having the courage to stand up and make the kind of imperative decisions that may well be decidedly unpopular, which, as we also learned in high school, is often what happens when one makes the right choice, is the toughest, and most important, test any leader can face.
#TChat Questions & Recommended Reading (09.21.11)
We hope you can join us Wednesday, September 21 at 7-8 PM ET as we go beyond the buzzwords to explore the ways that dynamic changes in technology, the economy and, most importantly, expectations affect not only leaders, but the organizations, and employees, they lead.
Here’s a preview of the questions we’ll be discussing, along with some recommended reading that, while not mandatory, should help prepare – and inform – your involvement in this week’s #TChat conversation: “The Evolution of Management: Leadership and the New World of Work.”
Q1) What role do leaders play in driving innovation? Collaboration?
Q2) What makes someone a “leader?” Is this a matter of role/responsibility or perception?
Q3) Which matters most for leaders: education, experience or emotional intelligence?
Q4) What can organizations do better to hire and develop future leaders?
Q5) What role does social media and technology play in determining leadership efficacy?
Q6) How is leadership evolving, if at all? What does the future of leadership look like in 5 years? 10?