Everybody is talking about leadership and Emotional Intelligence skills these days – have you noticed? How important it is to be a ‘good leader’, and how this is different from being a ‘good manager’. That whatever stage of our career we are at, and whatever job title we hold, we are all leaders.
That apparently, leadership is not a position, it is a ‘mind-set’.
Organisations are told by consultants and advisors that their businesses will thrive ‘through empowering employees at all levels to take an active role in leading themselves and therefore their organisations to success’.
We hear it is time that we all, at every stage of our careers, start to think proactively, take responsibility and excel in work. This is the new face of leadership – consensual and non-hierarchical.
And it’s true and right.
We are not machines or automatons. Our world has evolved from the workplaces of the past, where perhaps you could arrive in body, manage your daily tasks, and leave without really engaging.
So let’s all get proactive and do it now, or even sooner.
When I think of ‘workplaces of the past’ my mind jumps to ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Dickens, where Bob Cratchit worked for 60 hours a week in freezing conditions for Scrooge, a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas.
Dickens vividly describes him: “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice…” A boss hopefully not many of us are familiar with…..
But a Christmas Carol was written in 1843, so perhaps maybe that is leaping too far back to talk about being proactive.
What about 1963, when my Mum was working in a typing pool?
Did she feel she had the opportunity to be a leader and contribute to the success of the organisation? In the era of ‘take a letter Miss Jones’…I suspect not.
In one of my early jobs in 1993, working in the claims team for a medical insurance company for civil servants, we sat facing the Manager like pupils in a classroom. And we sat in silence, unless we had a question and needed to approach his desk or were talking a phone call.
Yes, there was opportunity for progression by working hard and smart (we didn’t call it proactive in those days), but being a government linked organisation hierarchy was ever present.
So now we are in 2016 (how did that happen?!) and we are talking about thinking proactively, taking responsibility and excelling in our work.
Organisations are rightly focusing on developing Emotional Intelligence skills in all employees and great organisations recognise that we don’t leave our ‘human’ in the foyer when we arrive in the morning. We bring it with us with all the emotion, distraction and confusion that being human entails. A little crazy. A little messed up. A little not-so-put-together.
Not perfect and not an automaton.
But in all of this are we forgetting anything? Can all of this focus on Emotional Intelligence skills and self-awareness, self-development, self-esteem, self-talk or self-confidence be masking something that the most successful organisations know and constantly reinforce?
The wall art in the Fan Shop at the Perth Wildcats reads
‘Around here, the team is more important that the individual. We don’t care how good you are, if you are not willing to put the Wildcats first, then this is not place for you’.
We know that the NBL Championships are not won by individuals, however well-developed their Emotional Intelligence skills are.
The championships are won by a collection of great individuals who make a great team.
It is the same with work and life. We are better together when we are surrounded by great team members. It is important to remember that however much we focus on self-improvement, it is with the aim of improving our ability to relate to others. To make connections that enable that incredible state of flow where everyone is pulling in the same direction with the same end goal in mind.
As Dumas coined it……
“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.”