Leading From Anywhere

I’m currently developing some work with Richard Martin, which is giving us cause to examine what leadership is, and how it differs from management. Richard has articulated something helpful which I’d like to share with you.

Leadership can come from anywhere and anyone, whereas management is usually an assigned role. Or put another way:

Leadership: Articulating a vision, setting strategy, inspiring others. Qualitative and outcome-oriented. Whole system.

Management: Focus on delivery, and the organisational and resourcing elements that enable it. Quantitative and output-oriented. Measurement and process.

When I was sketching out the current version of Principles of Work, I got stuck thinking about a suitable image to represent ‘Lead by Example’. Carole suggested I Google ‘leadership’ for some inspiration, so I did, and here’s some of what I found.

Leadership Google Search 1

What an underwhelming response. I kept scrolling and things didn’t get any better.

Leadership Google Search 2

Image after image of anonymous bubble shaped cartoon men pointing, conducting, megaphoning, and striding forth with their legions of dutiful followers. This is not the leadership I’m looking for, and it certainly doesn’t fit with the idea that leadership can come from anywhere and anyone.

I diversified my thinking, starting to include other words into my searches, and I discovered some images of aerobatic display teams at work. I was struck by the many formations these teams adopt, and how frequently, there is no single leader out in front.

Lead by Example copy

I chose this formation to demonstrate leading by example. It speaks to me of trust, and of the possibility that leadership can come into play from any position on the team. As we look at the formation here, it may be that the leader is sitting in the plane at the back – the only position where this whole formation can be viewed from. And as the group switches places, the role of leader can shift too.

How do you define leadership – and what images does it conjure up for you? Let me know your thoughts and I’ll see if I can draw something for you.

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