Whatever else is happening to leadership, it’s becoming more personal.
But personal does not mean private—personal means human. Public speaking needs to be human and conversational to be effective. Blogging, web chats, conference calls: all of these require a kind of leadership relationship unthinkable even twenty years ago. Your leadership “voice” has to mesh with these times, and the voice has to be your own.
The fact is that there is no assembly until you create one
- Fallacy #1: when people are gathered together (in the same room, on the same team, on the same email distribution list, on the same conference call, in the same auditorium, in the same company) they are ready to listen, think, feel, and act collectively.
- Fallacy #2: since you think of your team members collectively, they behave collectively.
- Fallacy #3: since your team members think of themselves collectively, they’re ready to act collectively.
The fact is that there is no assembly until you create one. There is no collective listening, thinking, feeling, or action unless you trigger it.
The emerging leader faces a central challenge: how to lead when you can no longer lead on the strength of personal relationships.
What to do when leadership is no longer personal, when it is no longer one-to-one, when it is no longer based on the leverage of a personal bond or connection. What other leverage is there, other than the leverage of our personal bonds with each other?
The way you answer this question will provide the key to your authenticity.
What is an emerging leader? When I say “emerging” I mean two things:
- someone the organization tags as capable of leadership
- someone suddenly thrust into a leadership position who’s concerned about whether she has the leadership instincts, skills, and tools she needs in order to lead.
Leadership capacity: big enough to lead?
The organization often sees your leadership potential before you do. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the organization squeezes leadership out of you before either of you is even sure you have it.
The organization is placing a bet: it’s betting that your growth can help its growth. The organization takes stock of you and decides to make more room in the organization for you — and you must take stock of yourself in order to see whether you can make enough room inside of yourself to lead others.
It’s a leap of faith, for sure: often there isn’t enough room inside to lead others. Or at least, that’s the way it feels: it feels as though you’re not “big enough” to lead. Indeed, emerging leaders are often terrified because they suspect that they don’t, in fact, have the capacity to lead.
I believe that such fear is misplaced, or at the very least, misunderstood. I would argue that anyone can lead; that we all have the capacity to grow into leadership roles.
Whether we want those roles is a separate question entirely. Whether we have the will to lead — that too is a separate question. But notwithstanding these questions, I believe that everyone has a capacity to grow toward leadership.
Everyone has the capacity to lead
This capacity is innate — as innate as thinking, listening, and expressing. One of the keys to leadership is communication, and leadership and communication are so closely linked that when you can communicate well you will have the capacity to lead well.
The better your communication skills, the better your leadership skills and the greater your leadership capacity. Think of it this way: communicating well makes room for leadership to emerge and grow; good communication reveals leadership. Becoming an effective communicator will reveal the kind of leader you have the capacity to become.
The aim of leadership development is to create what I call a “confident public self.” Having a confident public self is the key to presence. With presence, you can:
- walk into a room, confident that you have a right to be there and a contribution to make there.
- take the first risk: start the dialogue.
- nourish the ideas of others, even the ideas you disagree with.
- use silence to create an echo chamber for resonant thinking.
- persuade others not only to think along with you, but also to feel along with you.
- bring people into closer alignment with each other by bringing them into closer alignment with you.
The communicator who has this kind of presence is a leader. Communication is leadership.