Last updated May 2017
The Task of Leadership
I've been thinking a lot about leadership. Thinking about what it means in today's context. I’m making a distinction between leadership and a leader. Leadership as a process is larger than the individual leader. That seems important because leadership happens in relationship with others and within a context. There are many kinds of leadership; thought leadership; market leadership; political leadership, spiritual leadership. Leadership as a process brings a vision into reality by harnessing all the organization’s assets: its products, services, technologies, customers, processes, systems, reputation, individual talents, knowledge, and skills and so. These collective assets are the strengths of the organization – the positive core.
Peter Drucker Leadership
Peter Drucker wrote in his 1967 classic, The Effective Executive: “To make strength productive is the unique purpose of organization. It cannot, of course, overcome the weaknesses with which each of us is abundantly endowed. But it can make them irrelevant.”
So if, in fact, a key task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths, then imagine the possibilities of strengths connected to strengths? What might that look like and why might that be worth striving for?
Aligning Strengths – Appreciative Inquiry
For leadership to create an alignment of strengths, it most likely means looking at organizations with new eyes. The transformational change methodology, Appreciative Inquiry provides a world view and a framework: What if we were to look at organization not as problems to be solved, but as miracles to be embraced? What if we were consciously to look for the good and hold up the achievements and the successes; to invest generously and respectfully in inquiring into existing organizational strengths and assets? What if we were to invite people to tell their stories of when they felt most energized, enlivened and valued at work. And we listened. Really listened. What language would employees, customers, vendors, media be using? Is it uplifting and positive? What stories are they sharing about their experiences with the various products, services and people? Are they focusing on what works well, and what they want more of? If yes, that's great, as such language creates upward spirals, and there's the broadening effect of noticing more acutely what works. As a consequence, you are more likely to enact your capabilities and your potential. Performance improves, since it is more energizing and creative to have people talk about what they can do and what they aspire to than the reverse. Two maxims come to mind:
What you focus on grows.
People support what they create.
To connect strengths to strengths and to see anew, with an appreciative eye, and to facilitate the leadership capability so that it creates flourishing organizations is work that is meaningful, joyful, rewarding and essential.