When I was researching leadership for my MBA thesis almost two decades ago, much of the literature on the topic focused on the interactions between: leader and context, leader and followers or leader and mission. Very rarely would authors describe leadership as a systemic phenomenon.
Since then, the literature hasn’t progressed much. Here’s my take…
At its root, leadership exists so that a group/tribe/organization/club can successfully anticipate and meet future events and by doing so, live better lives. That fundamental reason is the same today as it was 1,000 or 10,000 years ago.
Two key criteria exist by which successful, sustainable, strategic leadership can be measured: 1) the ability to predict the future and 2) the capacity to motivate and develop people to meet those future needs. As such, leadership is future-facing because its intention is to influence events that are yet to come. Moreover, leadership involves balancing and blending the interaction between the leader (you), the followers (people), the context AND the mission.
The group’s leader should reflect the values and ambitions of the people they have been chosen to represent. Values and ambitions change based on the setting. A political leader, a Fortune 500 CEO and the head of a social welfare group, for example, will have different roles, perspectives and values. But each leader should demonstrate consistency and integrity to become a ROLE MODEL for their “tribe.”
Without followers, a leader cannot lead. The ability to focus on others, along with the connection that comes with superior communication skills is imperative to becoming a COMMUNITY BUILDER with like-minded and motivated supporters.
A primary tactical role of the leader is to help followers make sense of a changing environment. This could be a competitor’s new product release, a customer’s rejection of the latest proposal, a piece of proposed legislation or even a perceived sleight-of-hand from within the organization. Having high cognitive/social/emotional intelligence is paramount for a leader. Great business, social, political and community leaders will also possess a learning orientation, to become SENSE MAKERS during times of change.
How the group will embrace and manage the uncertain events of the future is the critical element of the leadership paradigm. Being able to model, motivate and make sense of the world for their group are important, but without future-orientation resulting in better lives, this cannot be considered successful, sustainable or strategic leadership. Leaders are FUTURE SHAPERs. They need to combine a clear vision with an energetic, systemic bias for action to yield transformative results.
These four roles—ROLE MODEL, COMMUNITY BUILDER, SENSE MAKER and FUTURE SHAPER—resonate deeply within our own human experience because they are intrinsically linked to timeless human motivations and values (of Self, Belonging, Meaning and Purpose) that make up a fulfilling, successful life.
This model has brought clarity and focus to the leaders I have worked with across the world. It has helped define their leadership purpose. I trust that it will help you, too.
If you’d like to learn more about Adastra’s Transform Program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org