Source: The Availability of a Leader by Aboodi Shabi
The Drucker Foundation has this to say about leadership - "The only definition of leader is someone who has followers". In other words, as a leader, it is your capacity to engage with others in such a way that they are willing to follow you that marks you as a leader. For all of us who work as leaders, or who take on a leadership role in life, or work with leaders, that capacity for engagement is an on-going process of learning. At this level, we are talking about the ontology of a leader—what is it in our being that we can work on and develop to make us more available as a leader?
One of the questions I ask leaders with whom I work is "How are you unavailable as a leader?" In other words, what aspects of yourself stand in your way of being someone people will want to follow? For example, it might be that you find it hard to say 'no'. Or it might be that you need to be liked, or that you are very results-focused, and don't take time to really connect with others. Or you might find it hard to ask for help, or be uncomfortable with not knowing all the answers.
All of these are aspects of our being that require our attention in our own leadership development.Until we identify those areas where we are unavailable, then we can only produce more of the same, limited by our own ignorance of our learning edges. Once we have identified areas for learning, then we can begin to develop new practices to help strengthen us in those areas.
For example, someone who finds it hard to say 'no' might do some assertiveness training, or take on a physical training like Aikido to help build the body of someone who can set boundaries. Similarly, someone who is very task-focused might take on a sitting practice in order to develop the capacity for slowing down and reflection.
You might like to try the following:
- In a spirit of curiosity (not judgment or blame!), identify what are the aspects of yourself that tend to make you unavailable to leadership. You might ask for input from your colleagues, direct reports, or work with a leadership coach.
- Having identified a learning edge, what practices might help you develop and learn here? Who might help you? Often we have someone in our life who has those very qualities we seek to learn, and they can act as a great, if informal, teacher for us.
- Remember that learning is a life-long process, so be patient with yourself!
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Aboodi Shabi is a Senior Leader and Coach at Newfield, an international transformational learning organisation. Aboodi has been working with, and training, leaders and coaches all over the world for the last 12 years and is a certified ontological coach (tm) with Newfield. He has also completed leadership programs with Strozzi Institute.
About the Author
Ron Cacioppe is the Managing Director of Integral Development and holds a BSc, an MBA and a PhD in Leadership and Organisational Development. Learn more at Integral Development