Leadership for most people is defined as great men (traditionally) doing great deeds.
Fortunately we have expanded our thinking to include the other 50% of the population (i.e. females).
As such we have a much broader and better perspective of who leaders are.
But perhaps we also need to let go of the great deeds part.
To be sure, the Selma March led by Dr Martin Luther King some 50 years ago is a wonderful example of the big, dramatic leadership actions that make us all feel better.
But is this the model that organisational leaders need to follow?
The problem is that these sorts of actions whilst important are infrequent.
It’s a similar story with creating a corporate vision for example.
Important but rare.
To draw an analogy it’s a bit like running a marathon once a year.
It’s very hard and what about trying to get fit the rest of the time.
This is where the idea of everyday leadership might be a more useful approach.
Because this is the real stuff of leadership in organisations.
It’s helping team members to make some progress – everyday.
It’s the continuous feedback.
And the role-modellingof desired behaviour.
It’s a quiet word of praise not just the once a quarter ‘pep’ talk.
It’s the pick me up when things don’t quite work out.
And the sorting out of a potential difference of opinion between team members that could get out of hand.
It’s the small leadership actions that can have a big impact.
It means that everyday is an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership.
I still remember fondly the wonderful experience of when I was working at Amex and the Vice-President in New York of my division wrote a hand-written note congratulating me on a project that went well.
His actions created a win -win.
I felt appreciated and hopefully continued to do great work (good for him and me).
It was a small, unexpected and thoughtful action of a leader who practiced everyday leadership.
As these story suggests I am pushing the idea that organisational leaders might need to reconsider what we mean by leadership.
In particular, I am attracted to Drew Dudley’s definition:
The everyday act of improving each others lives.
In Drew’s own words in a TED talk:
“As long as we see leadership as something bigger than us―as long as we keep leadership as something beyond us―we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves and from each other.
We start to devalue the things that we can do every day.
And we start to take moments where we truly are a leader and we don’t let ourselves take credit for it and we don’t let ourselves feel good about it.”
Great leadership advice.
Under this new way of thinking — more people can be engaged in leadership, more often and have a bigger impact.