We tend to treat leadership as a skill – something singular, specific and focal. As such we try to learn it in the same way we learned algebra in school: we send our leaders to courses where they learn the skillset it requires to be “a leader.”Alas, leadership is not a singular skill. Instead, it is an all-encompassing effort we put forward; from the way we communicate to what we say and do, how we show up, how we feel and make others feel about us, themselves and the company.Leadership is something which requires constant learning, practice, mindfulness, and self-reflection. If we want to be leaders (or better leaders), we need to invest in every aspect of ourselves – and acknowledge the fact that it is a life-long endeavor.
At the same time, we need to remember that management and leadership are very different skills that often get confused. People will claim they show leadership when in reality they are managing. Or they don’t manage because they believe leadership is sufficient.As management guru Peter Drucker once said so eloquently, “Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things.”This the best and most succinct definition I have ever heard about the two aspects of running a company, team, or generally a group of people. It also hits the nail on the head.You need to do both. You need to do the right things, and you need to do them right.
One thing I keep preaching to corporate leaders universally is that the real job of upper management is to learn. As change has become the constant in our exponential times, continuous learning becomes paramount. Sadly I see way too many organizations focusing their attention on maximizing what they have — which is typically what made them successful in the first place and what got folks into upper management.It is a natural tendency and, of course, understandable. However, it is a dangerous habit to have — as the world is moving faster and faster and change is coming not only quicker but also more ferociously than ever before.Thus your role as a leader in any organization is to keep learning.Consider setting yourself quarterly leadership goals – just as you do for your company. From making the commitment to learn and practice a skill, to creating a mentor relationship with a colleague or employee, to journaling about your daily endeavors and thus reflecting on what went well and what didn’t, you will begin to make learning part of your daily regimen. Taking the time to complete these goals will set you on the path to becoming a more effective leader no matter what change comes barreling at you.These thoughts were originally shared by Pascal in his own publication, The Heretic, in these posts: Management and leadership, Leadership is a 360 Degree Endeavor, Future-Proofing Large Companies, and Leadership for Scale.