2012 has been a year of growth, learning, and opportunity - particularly in the practice of leadership. We all judge each other on this skill - the ability to lead, the ability to follow, create vision and execute success. We all judge each other regularly, too. Why do some rise faster than others, why do some seem to get more opportunities, why are some considered "high potential" and others not? In general, companies get it right.... maybe 50% of the time. Maybe smaller companies get it right more often just because the tolerance for getting it wrong is so low (it really really hurts the entire small company when they have the wrong people in leadership).
Leadership... is a big word. It means a lot of things to many people...
This past year, I've been given the opportunity to grow and lead a small business unit for the company I work for, Logic20/20, and it's given me the chance to thoughtfully invest in certain key individuals that work on projects with me and play with different ideas. Certain individuals have a certain... special something, x-factor, hunger, drive, ... it's hard to describe or pinpoint. Over the past ten years, I've tried picking out what that certain something special is - and invested in many people through the mentoring I do with the University of Washington students, ad-hoc mentees I take on, etc... it's taken me a little while to put my finger on it as I've been very conscious in thinking about, analyzing afterwards, observing, ... reaffirming and tweaking my thoughts on this. I used to think some people could get away without doing this. I thought maybe perhaps there are special exceptions to the rule... but no. Yea - not so much. I do have individuals I work with that I just wish, I wish would do that something consistently.... I send them friendly reminders, I nudge them, I gently prod them.... but then, my trust in them goes down because I have to "PM - project manage" them. No, there is no exception - not in the way I judge the high potentials in my business unit of those I want to continue to invest in, grow into replacing me some day. I cannot afford to hand-hold a person into leadership - they have to be there, consistently, ready to go, over and over and over again before I'm willing to put myself on the line and invest in them. I actually tried it out for months of September to November wondering how long I could keep the"free pass" I assumed I had going because of my special "dire" circumstances. Didn't work. No - not in the way I am and have been judged by the leadership team of my employer. It is all about consistently being ready to play your A-game at every meeting, in email, on the phone, offline - OVER and OVER and OVER again. That is how you earn your stripes for leadership - through consistent diligent demonstration.
To me, leadership is always about consistently demonstrating it: leading by example + servant leadership.
Please share your thoughts with me - would love to hear from you.