Thinking Out Loud

Real Leadership

I just finished reading How by Dov Seidman, an inspiring book about creating values driven organizations that promote team work, mutual accountability, and individual leadership. It is possible to do this; Seidman includes lots of great examples of organizations of every size. This is particularly inspiring when put against news—and we’ve all heard it—of a company that relocates because of the “quality of the workforce.”

Often when you hear about a lack of an adequate labor pool, it’s in a relatively metropolitan area, a large diverse city with a large diverse workforce. If the leadership of a relocating company believes the people of the new locale will provide a better workforce, they are likely fooling themselves. It always sounds to me like a geographical cure for a leadership problem or that they don’t want to discuss the “real” reasons.

The words that shoot through my mind when I hear of this are “crisis of leadership” and I’m reminded of Good to Great by Jim Collins. In the book, Collins analyzes the leaders in great companies. These are humble individuals who know the mission and stick to what the organization does best, but do it better and better. They inspire their workforce by sharing the responsibility for the mission, with everyone having a real stake in what they are doing.

Good leaders know how to communicate a vision and share the responsibility for success with employees. They create a feeling of we’re all in this together. Blaming the quality of workforce in a major city for being inadequate is like blaming students for not learning in poorly run schools. You can say that kids have “bad home lives,” so they can’t learn but we have all heard of kids thriving in schools located in the poorest of neighborhoods because the community of teachers and administrators find a way to work successfully with them. The examples of this phenomenon throughout the country are too numerous to refer to it as an anomaly.

This is about leadership and communication—the leader’s ability to communicate a vision and share the leadership with others toward a worthy goal. Leadership and communication are inexorably interwoven, with communication being more than words. Communication includes words and the consistency of actions to back them up. The active demonstration of values along with the consistency of behavior provides the real leadership that will continue to inspire individuals.

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