Everywhere you turn nowadays, it seems like someone has meaningful wisdom and inspirational quotes to share about leadership.
Contemporary leadership comes in all stripes and sizes, including energy leadership, servant leadership, values-based leadership, ethical leadership, biblical leadership, inner leadership, outer leadership, charismatic leadership, personal leadership, leadership for Millennials, leadership for Gen-Xers who supervise millennials, as well as many other forms. You name it, it’s out there, and the countless books, articles, blogs and tweets on the topic indicate that it’s at the forefront of our collective minds, a subject for which we seem to have an insatiable appetite.
As I considered the current emphasis on (if not infatuation with) leadership, I began to list some possible reasons as to why we invest so much of our collective time, energy and resources in the topic. The following thoughts came readily to mind:
- Fast-moving marketplace. Markets change today at breakneck speeds. The shelf life of strategic plans is significantly shorter than in decades past, as is the ability to ride the wave of successful products and programs. Leaders must be able to quickly study and decipher emerging tendencies and predict how the future will unfold — economically, politically, technologically and otherwise — in their sector and beyond. They must maintain an engaged and informed workforce that can be nimble and dexterous, capable of responding rapidly to new opportunities and challenges. These workplace realities demand the development of associated skills that can help a leader guide and inspire their charges towards a favorable outcome.
- The changing face of the working flock. Gone are the days when employees could be expected to fall in line and willingly accept directives. Workers today, particularly those of the millennial variety, expect to have a meaningful voice in the workplace and are prepared to move on if they don’t. Leaders recognize the need to create portals for communication and openness and seek the skills and knowhow to do so correctly.
- The ladder is now a stepstool. The hierarchal flattening within corporate America means that more leadership opportunities exist for midlevel executives and new hires. Teams and task forces abound, charged with overseeing special projects, researching best practices and making strategic recommendations. The creation of new leadership positions demands an increased focus on related skills.
- Entry-level CEO. Many more of our college graduates are choosing to bypass the corporate route entirely, preferring self-employment instead. We live in an age of startups, all hoping to hatch the next great idea. The existence of more business entities and the ongoing formation of new business sub-sectors invariably mean more people in leadership positions that require effective skills.
- Doing it better. Many of us have grown up in a time of failed leadership. We have experienced or at least witnessed the damage and torment that corrupt, self-serving or unbalanced leaders have wrought on others. We know that there’s a better way, and are committed to understanding how leadership can be used to engage and inspire, rather than to tear down, impoverish and destroy.
Surely this is but a partial list of reasons as to why so many of us are deeply focused on the topic of leadership. Let’s hope that we can use our learning to lead inspired lives, for ourselves and for those that we lead and serve.
Naphtali Hoff served as an educator and school administrator for over 15 years before becoming an executive coach and consultant. Read his blog.