Don’t you just love these moments, where everyone is staring at you, expecting pearls of wisdom?
“So, what is your leadership philosophy?”
I was asked this during one of the first days in a new job. It got me thinking!
There are many different leadership theories and philosophies. Probably there are as many leadership approaches as there are leaders. Leadership is a very personal and individual business, and no matter what theory you as a leader adhere to, the execution of it will ultimately depend on what you are like and what you stand for as a person. Your individual leadership style consists of your own internal core values and your external core behaviours. Leadership is an expression of an attitude and approach to life that cannot be acquired as an intellectual skill through training alone. Training can provide several useful tools, but the leadership itself will be a combination of the usage of these tools, the experiences, and the outlook on life which you as a person bring into the specific leadership position.
All leaders, including myself, want to appear convincing and inspiring with high impact whilst still ‘just being ourselves’. I believe this is possible. As long as there is consistency between what you stand for as a person and the task you have to perform as a leader, it is absolutely feasible to remain ‘you’: The blurring of boundaries between the individual and the leadership role should not seriously give rise to challenges.
The dilemma only arises when this harmony is not present – and in these situations, the awareness that leadership role is ‘just’ a role you play can be crucial.
As a leader you sometimes have to live with the conflict between your own natural behaviour and personal beliefs and the expectations and demands placed on you in your role and/or by the organisation. However, it is rather demanding for a leader to be able to handle this kind of schism. It is like asking an actor to play a role that does not suit age, gender, height, etc. But just as good actors can portray characters who are distant from them as persons, good leaders are also able to play the role as convincing and inspiring leaders in situations that do not 100% harmonise with the person behind. And just as the actor should preferably not be caught in ‘playing a character’, the leader should not be caught in ‘playing leader’. Just as artificial as exaggerated acting appears to the theatre audience, just as untrustworthy the leader will appear if the employees sense that he or she does not believe in the message he/she communicates.
So, what is YOUR leadership philosophy?
For me – it is to be authentic. Leadership is not acting, and in the long run, the leadership role cannot be filled by simply ‘playing leader’. If I do that, I cut myself off from exploiting the inspirational power and impact of the authentic leadership that constitutes my thoughts, feelings and core values, which (I believe) are the most important tools any leader can have.
If you have any thoughts on the above, we would love to hear from you.
Vice-Rector IBA Denmark
QED Associate (Leadership & Research)