Leadership is a daunting enterprise. Challenges to leading effectively come from many avenues, and both internal and external factors must be addressed in order to create an ideal environment for both leaders and followers to contribute their very best.
Internally, all leaders must deal with one fact: we are all poor leaders. That’s not a statement of quality, but of insufficiency. All leaders (all people) are impoverished in some way, lacking the full complement of skills and abilities necessary to tackle every task and to surmount every struggle.
As leaders, we are limited (Ltd.), and pretending otherwise helps no one. It doesn’t protect our reputation or assert our credibility to put forth fancifully that we have everything necessary in and of ourselves.
Rather, as leaders, we must be incorporated (Inc.): we must exist within a dynamic web of relationships and support comprised of other human resources that can add what we lack, who can fill in our gaps, who can offer perspective, experience, talent, and ability that we cannot simply manufacture within ourselves.
The challenge of being incorporated in such a way is that bringing other people into the mix also means bringing in their expectations, and this is one of the major external challenges faced in the leadership enterprise.
Many expectations are unfounded and unrealistic, stemming from a distorted view that leaders–who often get preferential perks/benefits/salary–should be able to achieve superhuman levels of output, excellence, or faultlessness.
But some expectations are right and appropriate. Yet despite their appropriateness, a leader still may not have all the necessary resources in order to fulfill them. Just because a leader has a legitimate responsibility doesn’t mean he or she won’t need any help. Awareness of this fact points them back to the reality of their limitations, and hopefully brings them into the positive side of incorporation: turning to others for help.
Max DePree writes, “leaders who see only a limited need for the gifts of followers limit themselves to their own talents” (Leadership Jazz, p.14). That means that if there’s any area where a leader lacks talent, there will necessarily be a lack of excellence and achievement…unless they invite followers to bring their own assets into the mix.
As followers have expectations of their leaders, so too should leaders have expectations of their followers that they will employ their skills and abilities in order to contribute positively to the fulfillment of organizational aims. And one step along that pursuit is likely to be facilitating the leader in the accomplishment of his/her role.
That means offering help. It means addressing their poverty with your plenty (and similarly, addressing your own lackings through others’ assets).
It can be humbling to seek help and it can cause a bit of cognitive dissonance to accept and appreciate your leader’s level of need, but the only way that the organizational (and leadership) enterprise will be successful is if these two facets–being limited and incorporated–can be accepted and acted upon.
As a follower, holding back because you wish your leader was something more, or because you don’t think you should have to make a particular contribution, is nothing more than industrial sabotage. As a leader, refusing to admit your poverty and to invite others in is little more than pride and greed.
As human beings that are part of an organization or association, we all deserve to have those letters–“Ltd.” and “Inc.”–added after our names. We each have limitations, but we also each have the opportunities of community for supplying all the necessary traits and abilities to achieve corporate success.
For encouragement and guidance in understanding and applying yourself to following with excellence and helping others to do the same (with specific thoughts on poor leaders in Chapter 19), see:
Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture (by Allen Hamlin Jr; Kirkdale Press, Feb 2016)
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