A leader at the Alto do San RoqueWhat is a leader and what is leadership?

Many people may see leadership as something that is connected to a top-down hierarchy. This is a logical way of looking at leadership; after all, we often use the term in that way. A CEO leads a company, a prime minister leads his cabinet, an officer leads his troops. The way we use words, leads us to a perception we have about the meaning of a word.

There is more to leadership than just the hierarchical way of leading. Leadership is a behavior that we all show and accept, some more consistently than others. We are all leaders in the areas where we are confident. You are a leader in your profession; you lead yourself, your colleagues, your customers, your partners in your work. You are a leader at home and among your friends. During other moments you will allow yourself to be led by others and you will accept their leadership in certain areas.

In business collaborations we need to lead as well. During the creation phase and also during the operational phase. Just recently in a conversation someone mentioned to me that their company paid a lot of attention to the creation phase. Here they were in the lead. Yet, once the contract was signed he mentioned that they were not really paying sufficient attention to the operational phase. Here they allowed themselves to be led by the other party. 

In the light of alliances we often talk about alliance management. It might be better to talk about alliance leadership instead. We need to be active in driving our business collaborations: we need to lead. There are situations where it is good to let someone else take the lead. Situations where our partner might be better equipped, because of knowledge or experience. In these situations we can proactively invite them to take the lead.

Proactively allowing someone else to lead the way is also an act of leadership.

When it comes to personal behaviors and characteristics you will always have to lead yourself. In these situations it can never be the other person. Think about elements like integrity, honesty, trustworthiness; you will need to lead and demonstrate your integrity, your honesty and your trustworthiness. Personal values can never be led by someone else, you need to stay true to yourself.

It is as Ray Kroc said:

The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.

What is a leader and what is leadership for you? Think about it this week and at the end of the day, ask yourself this question: “What would have gone better Today if I had shown more leadership?”

Enjoy your week!