Bold Leadership

Published on 29 June 2015 at 1:07 pm #communicatewithimpact #communicationskills #goodleadership #impactfactory #leadershipdevelopment #leadershipskills

A few months before the General Election Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse of the Royal Society wrote that politicians are cowardly in their repeated ignorance of scientific evidence that may be unpopular with the public.

He went on to say that it indicated a total lack of leadership on the politicians' part.

This got me thinking about leadership in general and the difference between holding a vision and working within it and for it, and having an agenda and manipulating information in order to fulfil that agenda, which often remains hidden.

Here's what I mean, when a leader, any leader in any sphere of work, has a clear vision, then he or she creates a forum to invite others to share that vision and contribute to it. This allows for flexibility, the building of trust, making mistakes and learning from them instead of trying to cover them up or blame others.

On the other hand, if a leader has an unspoken agenda it often creates a climate of mistrust, the need to find allies and take 'sides', misinformation, outright lies, rigidity. All because the agendas in these cases are often self-serving and are about keeping a job, going higher up in an organisation, building power and empire, doing someone else down - you get the picture.

The thing about being transparent, accepting 'evidence' that may refute what you want to present to those you lead, and inviting input from others is that you don't know where it all might lead.

I think of this as bold leadership because it's really brave leading from a place where you don't know the outcome. Politicians want certainty so that is one very good reason they ignore what the scientific community says because it won't - or they believe it won't - win votes.

Other types of leaders who do the same also want certainty and they become controlling, authoritative (in the worst iteration of the word) and need to engineer what happens around them.

Their leadership is patriarchal because it tends to be all about telling people what to do rather than persuading, influencing and creating buy-in. Patriarchs don't feel the need to create buy-in, they just push their ideas onto other people.

In turn, people who are treated in a patriarchal way often become infantile in their behaviour - they display the traits of a compliant or rebellious child.

Bold leaders want to hear what others have to say, they can admit when they've got it wrong, they try things out and often fail. But the great thing about this kind of leader is that they usually still have loads of followers because the more authentic they are, the more human they seem; the more human, the more they can connect with people who work with them.

Let's look at the global stage for an example. Right now Alexis Tsipras is displaying all the qualities of a bold leader. He doesn't know the outcome; he asked his Parliament for their backing; he is asking his citizenry for their input.

This isn't lip service, which we get from so many leaders. This truly is a leap into the unknown with equally unknown consequences and yet he feels compelled to do something to break the deadlock and shift the status quo.

Not every leader is an Alexis Tsipras - leaping into a potential void without an obvious parachute - but status quos, if they aren't working, can be shifted, need to be shifted for things to progress.

I'm with Sir Paul Nurse: ignoring evidence is cowardly and self-interested; bold leadership is about working with what's real not a manipulated picture of reality.

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By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory