I was at a VECCI business lunch last week and the guest speaker was Australian of the Year Simon McKeon. What an inspiring, humble and incredibly intelligent person. He has done some wonderful philanthropic work and is making a real difference. He was interviewed Q&A style and shared his views on business, the economy and many other topics.
The inevitable question came up about leadership. Simon’s belief is that there is a huge demand for leadership and that people’s expectations of leaders have increased significantly. Particularly in the political arena. I could not agree more. Simon is on the money there, the question is, how do leaders meet and manage these expectations? I was keen to ask Simon a question; ‘is the problem with leadership today the fact that leadership seems to be a “concept” rather than being something that is understood and practiced’? I am talking about true leadership, rather than leadership through title.
Needless to say, I speak with people daily on leadership and as part of the Business Leadership Academy, I interview prominent business leaders on their views on leadership. It is hard to come up with a definition of leadership, it seems everyone has their own view or are not sure what leadership really is to define it. However, if you read the resources by leadership experts, namely Brian Tracey, John Maxwell, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey to mention a few, the theme is consistent. Leadership is a state of being. It is more about who you are as a leader and what you do rather than what you say and how impressive your title is. This is a firm belief of mine and is also a consistent theme coming through the various interviews I am doing.
With the changing demographics, the constantly changing and frenetic pace of business, leaders cannot lead how they led a couple of years ago. You’ve heard me say that before I know. I believe the problem with leadership today is in fact because it remains a concept and people do not know how to lead in a competitive and challenging environment. I believe the past decade or so has contributed to that. Leaders were leading their business and teams through ‘good times’. Business was a lot easier and therefore they did not need to posses the ability to adapt and situationally lead for the harder times. They could lead through one-dimensional leadership and this is no longer the case.
Leaders now need to adapt their leadership styles to various situations and occurrences; they need to have multi dimensional leadership skills to build a business and a team to success. They cannot rest on their laurels any longer and they need to be a true leader.
The concept of leadership needs to be developed as a necessary business practice. Therefore, those leaders who are not sure what ‘true and effective’ leadership is needs to learn the skills and learn them quick. They need to adapt their style to lead in these times and they need to stand up and understand what is expected of them, rather than continuing to lead how they know (a big trap). This is the challenge for business leaders today. The concept needs to graduate to a practice and needs to be implemented immediately and practiced consistently.