Some of us have traveled a hard and rocky road on our leadership journey; for many, the journey is far from over. As leaders, we all have strengths and weaknesses, good points and bad points, character strengths and character flaws. Each of us is armed with a unique composite of skills and knowledge which we use to face the world and meet the challenges of achieving progress on tough issues. We call this leadership.
Every day, we face new challenges. Some of us face the same challenges over and over, an endless time loop in a Groundhog Day movie in which we have a starring role. We all attempt, in our ways to leverage our strong points to the best of our abilities. We seek advice. We attend seminars. We blame the strategic plan. We participate in forums, blogs and chats. We blame the economy. We read leadership best sellers. Task forces are formed and dissolved with wild abandon. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Those of us less musically inclined turn to comfort food. In the absence of wisdom and epiphany, there is solace in butter and canola oil.
As many of us have recognized, there is no one-size-fits-all-in-leadership. Leave that to purveyors of fine T-shirts and hyper elasticized slippers. There are no panaceas. Fresh garlic builds the immune system and holds the common cold at bay, but it wreaks havoc on dysfunctional teams. We quest for the Holy Grail of leadership, like knights of a modern Round Table. It remains elusive, and we, like King Arthur’s knights are reminded that the quest itself is the prize.
In desperation, we turn to the wisdom of the scriptures, but their inspirations range from warrior kings who annihilate entire countries to prophets who turn the other cheek. Neither of these leadership archetypes seems practical in a corporate environment. Distracted, we muse about turning some of our colleagues into pillars of salt until we are jolted back to the present by a divinely inspired aha!
Google! A panacea and Holy Grail rolled into one. Our divine quest morphs seamlessly into a digital search. We turn from our lances to our keyboards and type “Effective Leadership” into the search bar. We rise to get a glass of wine while the algorithm does its work. Only 110 million results in 0.33 seconds. The 0.33 seconds is intimidating. We wonder why anything other than Olympic bobsledding needs measurement in units smaller than one second.
110 million results is a discouraging number. We sense, intuitively, that this may be more than a one-glass evening, wondering how much damage 110 million clicks can do to a mouse or a finger.
Numerous links claim to provide varying numbers of tips for effective leadership, ranging from 7 to 50 tips. Double digits are discouraging. We want just one tip. One good one. According to the titles, all of these tips are essential. Food, water, air and shelter are essential. Everything else is discretionary. Maslow fell from grace and an entire generation missed it.
A picture is worth one thousand words. We click on Images. Mr. Google cascades leadership images by the thousands, maybe millions. If one picture is worth one thousand words, then how many words are one million pictures worth? In grade eleven, I could have answered this easily.
There are pyramids everywhere. Having just read about the Egyptians during our scriptural phase, we question the connection between pyramids and leadership. Venn diagrams abound. Our takeaway is that leadership has something to do with running in circles. This is discouraging, but somehow resonates.
There are many images of confident, smiling people wearing expensive suits. The connection between leadership and expensive clothing is not immediately apparent. There are no images of leaders attired in Walmart chic. The Walton family who owns Walmart is the richest family in the United States. Somewhere here, there is irony to be found.
The connection between leadership and smiling people is equally mystifying. Maybe we’ve had too much wine and typed “toothpaste” into the search bar instead of “leadership.” I don’t smile much. Most leaders I know don’t smile much. Mostly, they look grim. Grim and worried. There are no pictures of grim looking, worried people in these leadership images. All of them have better dental plans than I do.
That’s OK. This journey is far from over.
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