On Leadership

photo Follow the Leader

Credit: flickr / *clairity*

They call Extreme Blue a leadership development program. I didn’t get it at first, but by the end I did. I also started to see why I had been picked out as someone “showing leadership” – though I have so far to go there.

It’s around that time of year when I re-read 7 Habits (Amazon) and try and internalize it. It’s become more clear to me over the past few months that this book is key to good leadership, and so this year the take-aways I get from it will be different, for sure.

I’m not sure I see myself as a leader – more as an active participant in various communities and the debates that surround them. However having read The Leader Who Had No Title (Amazon), that is one view of what leadership is – whatever position you’re in, whatever title you have, you just work to be the best you can be.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box (Amazon) is another book on leadership – one that I found completely changed the way I look at everything. It’s funny, because in a talk based on that one of my friends was irritated because it seemed like we were being given life advice – but having read the book, it’s true that it is life advice – because (I think) this view of leadership is all about being a nice, humble, respectful, and – crucially – taking ownership of the mistakes you make instead of assigning blame.

This book shows us a world in which we are all, inside our boxes, desperately trying to justify the actions we take that are less than honorable, less than kind. If you don’t want to be such a person, you can choose to live outside your box. You can see others as humans – with their own motivations, fears, and justifications, rather than as obnoxious objects trying to take you down.

Recently, I did something really hard. I offered to step down from a position I love and that I’m hugely passionate about. If I wanted to live in a box I could complain that this is not my fault – the situation is the actions of someone else. I have the emails that have been sent, I could forward them to everyone. I have some idea of what her justifications are, but it doesn’t matter – I can’t change them, it’s pointless to address them.

It is difficult not to do this. After the latest trick for about an hour I was just – in shock, repeating, “why would someone do that?”.

But – what little I have learned about leadership tells me that this is not the way to do that. All I can do is be honest, open, humble – and try to be kind. Accept that I’ve been in the box towards this person and try and be outside it.

This is a horrible, difficult situation to be in. I try and see those as opportunities to grow, and learn. I don’t like what I’m learning about power struggles, but learning not to respond in kind? That is probably a good one.



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