The other night, in a dream, someone put me on the spot, asking me provocatively: ’Can you take over here and lead?’ The dream sequence prompted me to think about what the person meant and what was required – and it prompted me to ask myself: How do I lead? Just to become more aware of it for myself.
Once I had started scribbling things down, I looked on the Internet whether other people did what I had just done. I found quite a few people, also e.g. head teachers, who had written up their leadership credos and had made them public, for colleagues and direct reports to see – inviting those colleagues and reports to always hold them to their own standards and give them feedback if they ’slipped’. I thought that was quite a neat idea. So, not copying their content – I still wanted that to be entirely my own, so did not read what they wrote – I do want to ’join that club’ and attempt to put something online. Here’s where I currently stand – to be revised and updated on an ongoing basis …:
THE FOUNDATION for my leadership approach are my values. I have condensed and summarized my most important ones, those that you cannot take away from me, to be:
- Autonomy and integrity –
the most important basis for me, and to define me as a person, both values go hand in hand. I need full autonomy over my destiny like I need air to breathe, and I know I need honesty – I offer it myself and need it from others. Lying does not work for me, neither does deceit. I simply don’t like hidden agendas. Mutual commitment (another important value, see below) is to me not possible without mutual integrity.
- Communication and understanding –
trying to truly understand others, really seeing them, in their unique ways of seeing and experiencing the world, and with their resulting needs and convictions. Also on a mutual basis – hopefully being seen and understood.
- Mutuality, loyalty and support –
good mutuality really creates the balance that is needed in any relationship, be it between people, organizations, or groups in society – and it means a lot to me. Such good mutuality, to me, has to include loyalty (which probably links in with my need for integrity mentioned above). And on that basis of mutuality and loyalty, being there for each other for appropriate support, in a motivating, encouraging, helpful way.
Then, a big BUILDING BLOCK for my approach is my understanding of power: I am not in the least interested in power over anybody – I believe in power with each other. (In my understanding, if you want power over others, good mutuality cannot work.)
In terms of the leadership notion itself: While I am personally fully with Peter Block, who promotes the more radical notion of ‘stewardship‘, an even more self-responsible and democratic approach, here I will go with ‘leadership’ as the notion that is still more commonly in use.
So where it comes to the activity, on the basis of my values and my understanding of power, I lead by
- being authentic – offering up who I believe myself to be at this point in my own evolving; what you see is what you get. No hidden agenda.
- being deeply interested in people, their drivers and motivations, and their personal and professional transformational development. I lead by listening actively and getting to know people. I lead by respecting, honoring and valuing people for who they are. I lead on a basis of familiarity and trust with each other.
- good contracting between us, clarifying underlying mutual assumptions as much as possible.
- with a deep awareness that culture is co-created, and that each one of us contributes simply by ’showing up’, and by how we show up.
- from behind, being supportive, and my door is always open.
- in a circle, in a flat hierarchy and a participatory approach, co-creating both strategy and implementation. I want us to achieve great things together and ’change the game’ – also through good ’thinking together’, also with external ’best minds’.
- by being fine with some of my reports being more knowledgeable than I on certain areas of expertise.
- being all for it when people want to get ahead and thrive – I will, if needed, only caution them occasionally not to overwork themselves. But I will not react well to people who only do the very minimum they can get away with, leaving their workplace on the minute. I need people on my team who are self-motivated and self-managing – which does not mean that they cannot consult me on my opinion and/or advice at any time.
- encouraging everybody to pay good attention to taking good and loving care of ourselves, with healthy, balanced lives that include sufficient sleep, rest, relaxation and leisure, healthy food and some exercise, and quality time with family and friends – as well as coaching or also therapy in as much as they can be helpful for personal evolution and inner transformation
- aiming to offer constructive feedback as needed, and equally wanting to receive that myself.
- learning from everybody, aware that we all learn from each other.
In that very spirit, I invite every reader of this post – if you have made it this far – to engage in conversation and feedback with me on what I have written above – thank you