Friday, October 1, 2010

To be a 21st Century Leader, be You!

I remember the first time my grandson Chai came aboard Sea Fever. He was so excited that after just an hour of watching me handle the boat, he sat on my lap and asked if he could steer. I explained that the correct way to ask for the helm was, “Permission to take the helm, Captain?” He quickly asked me using his new language and I returned his request with, “Permission granted, Chai.” and stepped out of the way.
Chai turned out to be a great student, but more than just learning the vocabulary of sailing, he had an intuitive sense of it – a unique ability. As he stood at the helm I watched him over-steer a few times but he quickly fell into the rhythm of the boat as it reacted to the wind and the waves to keep Sea Fever on its intended course. It was simply amazing to see a 7 year old, standing on the seat so he could see over the cabin top, handle a 50 foot boat with such determination and confidence. And boy could he keep a course. Much better that some of my long time sailing partners.

What I taught Chai certainly helped him with the mechanics of sailing, but who he is made him a sailor. In other words, he had what he needed already to be a sailor. He had, for example, a sense of rhythm, a sense of well being on the sea, and an internal confidence to stand up to what many adults have told me is an intimidating sport. He also never got seasick. For Chai to be a great captain, he simply needed the opportunity.

To be a 21st Century Leader, be you.

Not a Ronald Reagan clone. Not a Jack Welsch clone. Not a "Good to Great" clone. They were unique. You are unique. You cannot be exactly like anyone else any more than they can be exactly like you. And that's true for companies, organizations and countries as well. Each is a unique entity based upon their purpose, passion, culture, unique abilities and core values. Iraq will never be America any more that you will ever be Bill Gates.

Yes, we all need to be taught the mechanics of sailing, and that’s true of business as well. But who we are as a human being will determine how well we sail and what kind of leader we will be.

We write and read about successful leaders with the hope of being able to model their behaviors. The idea here is that if we do what they did then we will have similar success. And if you think about it, that's what most business and history books do, they describe behaviors as observed from the outside. If we can see the 25 traits of Good to Great leaders then, it is thought, if we follow every one of them, well, maybe we can build a Great company as well. Tom Peters is always finding the 85 things you must absolutely do right now or die. And oh, if you don't do all 85 of them just the way he says, you’re gonna die! Nonsense.

I am not saying the 85 things aren't smart, aren't good things to consider, but you will never, in a million years, do them exactly like the person or company that originated them did, and so you will never, in a million years, be successful exactly like they have been. One person's best practice can be another's disaster.

As a student and practitioner of NLP (NuroLinguistic Programming) I am well aware of the effect self-talk and language has on behavior and subsequent performance. I also know that modeling is a legitimate technology that one can employ to move a person or an organization forward. Sort of fake it until you make it. But there is one question every self help guru asks themselves sooner or later: Why won't they just do what I tell them to do? Why isn't every one of Robert Allen's students a real estate mogul like he is? Why isn't every one of T. Harv Eker's students wealthy beyond belief like he is?

There is no silver bullet. You cannot be someone else, so stop it.

Begin at the beginning. Who are you? Why are you here? What are you uniquely capable of? Answer these questions and you will be as unique and as valuable as any in the world. And you will have a sense of confidence in yourself no one outside of you can ever give you.

According to Patricia Aburdene's recent book, Megatrends 2010, in which she says, and boy do I ever agree with her, "The cornerstone of effective leadership is self-mastery. But that's exactly what's missing in business today." After working with over three hundred leaders across six different cultures, this has been my experience and contention for over 20 years now. The 21st Century leader must begin with self-mastery before he can ever hope to master the power of empathy and relationships much less the ability to then create a game worth playing.

Be yourself, Captain.

Sail On.

1 comment:

Ronbo said...

A good insight - it seems like we can spend quite a bit of time bouncing from one book to another or one blog to another that we forget to look at the situation for ourselves.