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What The “L” is Leadership About?

WHAT THE “L” IS LEADERSHIP ABOUT?

Everyone’s got their view on what Leadership is. That’s why there are shelves of books, hundreds of training programmes and dozens of gurus all vying for the time and money of business executives.

Fortunately, I’ve come up with a quick and cheap view of my own: there are Leaders and there are leaders. Upper- and lower-case leadership is important but I believe you can’t be a true Leader unless you have spent time as a leader first.

Let me explain.

The Big L Leadership is earned, awarded or conferred. It arrives because others want you to have it (though you probably wanted it too). And ultimately it is about them, the others; it’s not about you but your followers. This Leadership involves rank or status, recognition and reward, power and authority over other people. There will be expectations; decisions to be made that will affect many; and judgement by the results delivered.

Nobody said this is easy, so what a Leader needs to possess is both character and capabilities. I believe that these are developed when one is a lower-case leader, without formal followers, status or outside expectations. This is a long-term process that often begins at school – and for many it continues throughout life.

Anyone can keep working on their own capabilities and character, in order to manage themselves better in their life and develop the attributes that Leadership will demand. We are all capable of working on our self-discipline, persistence and awareness of our choices. We can each decide for ourselves to do the right thing and be comfortable being different. We can develop our courage, we can learn from feedback and adapt our everyday behaviour and we can even (with practice) acknowledge our weaknesses.

Small l leadership is about personal responsibility and decisions that may affect only you, but it is about developing the best You that You can be. And unlike Leadership, leadership is available to all of us.

© Hilary Fraser

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