Recently, I was in a room with a remarkable group of leaders. We were fully engaged in a strategic leadership analysis. I could sense their focus intensifying. Each of them leaned into personal reflection, connecting themselves and their team members with tactical steps toward critical goals for fulfilling their organization's mission.
I love working with a team of leaders who believe in their vision and live out their values. Being in the room with great leaders brings me joy. It stirs something within me. Strong beliefs translate into passion and commitment. I relish invigorating discussions where a tangible focus connects with a few critical challenges and how to create strategic movement.
At InitiativeOne, when we connect with teams, we always look for ways to increase results. Remarkable results begin with people. Transformational leadership begins when you find the courage to explore what lies within each leader.
Leaders are more than a collection of tactical steps. I refuse to settle for a focus on leadership that stops short of the human aspects of what it means to lead well. Something I read nearly two decades ago has stuck with me.
“We are all leaders, and we’re leading all the time, well or poorly. Leadership springs from within. It’s about who I am as much as what I do.”
We’re leading all the time. Well or poorly. Leadership doesn’t begin and end with a single task or project. Leadership is so much more than a list of responsibilities or objectives. Influence on others emerges in daily interactions with my team. It flows from who you are as much as what you do.
Return your thoughts to the meeting. Imagine you are seated in the room with the leaders I mentioned above. Now, let’s revisit a moment in the meeting when a wise leader in the room posed a question that quietened our discussion and brought me to a pause. Consider how you would have responded.
She asked us, “Why are we necessary?” We stopped, and our attention shifted. From there to here. From problems to people. From external to internal. She called us to consider our own leadership identity at a personal level. Why am I necessary?
Her question took us to a deeper place. Usually, when someone asks a question about leadership, I feel the need to provide a quick answer. At first, my mind was preparing to respond with how leaders match actions with outcomes. Leaders solve problems. There are always problems to be solved. Instead of responding, I paused. It felt good and right for us to be still for a moment and allow the question to sink in.
When was the last time you were in a room with a group of gifted leaders, and you just let a question sit for a moment? Sometimes it’s best to sit with a question and allow others to do the same. This was one of those moments. I urge you to sit with the question for 24 hours, set aside a few minutes, and respond to her question, “Why am I necessary?”
Challenge: Put 15 minutes on your calendar for tomorrow and write down your thoughts.
Whenever a question or a series of questions begins with the word “why,” it’s an invitation to explore new territory, stray from the usual path and discover more. There’s more to leadership than our initial thoughts and descriptions. Whenever I’m asked to define leadership, a few themes always seem to rise to the top. Leaders influence others in a positive way. They develop others and their ability to serve. Leaders empower others to act. They are agents of positive change.
There’s nothing wrong with my initial list of answers about leadership. I can add more to the list and springboard into a few more reasonable talking points. As I reflect on the question, “Why am I necessary” I am drawn to a deeper place.
At InitiativeOne, our description of leadership as “transformational” is more than an attempt to use a catchy adjective and score well on SEO. It’s intentional. Transformational leadership allows us to venture beyond the well-worn path of leadership practices and into the realm of human necessity. Transformational leadership is personal. Each of us possesses a unique and priceless value as we bring ourselves into opportunities and relationships.
If your initial response to the question, “Why am I necessary?” focused on your beliefs about what leaders do, that is fine. The best leaders in my life connect action with opportunities. They have helped shape my own habits and practices. Like any good coach, they helped me move from where I was to where I wanted to be. They teach and inspire me to take tangible steps from current reality to a preferred future. It’s difficult for me to envision leadership without action and movement. There is so much more. Leadership is more than a skill. It’s a Personal Transformation.
Transformational leadership requires a look at the person who takes the steps. Before I lead others, I need to learn to lead myself. That’s how I become a transformational leadership example with my Team.