Leadership. The word conjures up images of stalwart-faced people (mostly men in my imagination, I notice) bravely leading a company, a country, a movement. It suggests clear direction and purpose, inspirational speeches by people who have the position and power to really make something happen.
In writing this post, I wanted to get an understanding of effective leadership and how we collectively define leadership, so I consulted my online dictionary and found this:
The position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group: He managed to maintain his leadership of the party despite heavy opposition. Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony.
Ability to lead: As early as sixth grade she displayed remarkable leadership potential. Synonyms: authoritativeness, influence, command, effectiveness; sway, clout.
An act or instance of leading; guidance; direction: They prospered under his strong leadership.
The leaders of a group: The union leadership agreed to arbitrate.
Okay, maybe not so helpful. However, the synonyms are telling: management, control, authoritativeness, command, and clout. Really?! Clout?
No wonder we are in a bit of a pickle with leadership in our world today. It’s clear that our top-down, command, and control structures aren’t working. While hierarchy is a dandy structure for getting things done, it’s breathtakingly ineffective at empowering people and calling forth their very best.
What Does Effective Leadership Mean?
So, what if “leadership” were a verb rather than a noun? What if leadership was not defined by position or title but instead was measured by people’s willingness to respond and create solutions that were truly in the best interest of everyone? What if robust, engaged followership was actually considered a form of effective leadership?
What if we stepped, once and for all, into the collective understanding that every single person who drew a breath had a role to play and was an integral part of resolving the challenges that face us? Yes, we all have different skills and abilities, and it may be time to get over the idea that those who have more (however more gets measured) are the only ones who can lead.
To generate this shift, we must begin thinking about leadership as relational rather than structural and a collaboration rather than domination. In other words, we must begin thinking about effective leadership as Co-Active.
As I bring this post to a close, I realize many other aspects of Co-Active leadership have yet to be expressed. I’d love to hear from you. For those of you who have some experience with Co-Active leadership, what are the characteristics of effective leadership that you feel are most important to you? For those of you who are new to Co-Active leadership, I’d love to hear what you think about what I’ve written and what feels important to you about this topic. Thank you for reading and for being in this conversation with me. It matters . . . as do you!
What does effective leadership mean to you? Have you had any experience with Co-Active leadership? Share your thoughts in the comments section!