This post is an exercise for the Global Leadership practice
Five pictures that capture leadership practices
When looking for examples of leadership, it is common to look for historical figures of political or military importance. But I was wary of the fact that those who have set strong policies and made a dent in history did so because of the magnitude of their disruption and because the consequences – often unplanned – came to have a positive light in the after event. For example, when Paris was reformed by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the XIX century, thousands of families and businesses were moved for the construction of new boulevards. The disruption had a positive perduring effect but the unilateral decision to reform a major city today in the same way could be seen as a bad leadership practice.
So, it is a requirement to put leaders as people of their time. That way, we can at least be partially satisfied to deal with inconsistencies when praising leadership actions, that is, praising a leader for a certain decision and disproving the next for similar decisions at another date. That also happens when leaders of their time were found to be racist, homophobic or to support ideas that make less sense today. Therefore, to study leadership practices, in my opinion, it is necessary to examine specific action of the leaders, instead a praise for their personality.
Another neglected aspect of leadership practices is to admire how much work and effort is needed to carry smooth transitions and reforms. We are seriously biased towards the great events that cause change abrupt change and confrontation, those which are depicted in paintings and highlighted at biographys. But, because of this bias, we loose a large number of references of leaders that made their way to their goals with less friction. So, in this post, l tried to capture some of the leaders that had great impact with calculated disruption. This is a list to address largely neglected acts of leadership.
To make this list, I came with my definition for five aspects of leadership first . Then, I thought of a leader that represented it and tried to see what they had done that caused me to think they represent this leadership aspect. I did so to avoid a cult of personality and so we can truly learn with their examples. Because this soft leadership has less historical record, these figures are from contemporary history, but I wish historians could collect more examples of soft leadership that spanned back in time.
Model the way
Someone who can gather information, define a guideline and implement it.
Linus Torvalds created the basic code for the operation system Linux. The creation of an operation system, which is an impossible task by an individual, could only be achieved because of management of open source software that could be developed by individuals and by enterprises at the same time.
Inspire a shared vision
Someone who has a plan and can describe it clearly so the end goal is distant enough from the problem presented but yet is doesn’t look utopic and unreachable.
Why: Alain is a philoshopher that makes youtube videos on his channel School of Life about philosophy, sociology, pop cultures and other topics. He uses all the sources of human knowledge to produce extremely practical content and explores the current resources in technology and media to reach people.
Challenge the process
Someone that can keep a rebel at heart and have the patience to learn the processes to disrupt it from inside.
Why: Fransisco brought simplicity and humility to the Vatican and within a few years changed the perception of the catholic church. So far he has gained enough support from within the church to tackle tabu problems such as pedophilia and corruption at the higher ranks of the church.
Enable others to act
Set the environment so people can feel their opinions count and their actions have actual effects on a larger picture.
Why: Peter Drucker was a manager consultant that wrote a about the human aspect of business. He wrote a book called Managing oneself, which is one of the greatest discussions about how to manage knowledge and to understand ambitions and abilities of oneself.
Encourage the heart
Someone that can cultivate and channel non-destructive human feelings to a common project.