The Other Side of Leadership
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Traditionally, leadership has been understood as the ability to ‘lead’ a group of people. This definition immediately creates an image of someone who should have the capacity and capability to do and know more than others. Is it really possible for anyone to take ‘sole’ responsibility for knowing and doing everything?
Technology has in many ways equalized the playing field by giving access to information to everyone across all ages and stages. This shakes the traditional concept of leadership and gives rise to the question, what is effective leadership?
Challenge of Entrepreneurship
An organization gets seeded by the vision and passion of an entrepreneur and soon the entrepreneur identifies the idea, brings a team of like-minded people together and kicks starts the operations towards achieving that vision. As the organization starts growing, it requires processes for delegation, funding for expansion and empowerment for team building. Here is where, the challenges arise in the heart of the entrepreneur – how to sustain and grow the organization without letting go of control of every action and outcome? Letting go of our identification with an idea thought or vision is challenging because of the fear of ‘what if’ creeps in while giving up control to others.
What is Self-Leadership?
Our thoughts are an integral part of our identity and letting go of our identity can be challenging and frightening. Actually, what we forget is that we let go of every stage of life. We learn to walk by letting go of the finger of a parent and we grow as a person by stepping out of our home to go to school or work or travel. It is only when we step out of our comfort zone that we get an opportunity to discover new possibilities within ourselves like the joy of walking independently or discovery of hidden skills and talents.
The way we have the physical and intellectual ability to learn and grow, we also have the emotional capacity to let go of our thoughts and emotions. We can let go of our thoughts and emotions by inquiring and questioning internally. When we contemplate deeply, we discover many assumptions and perceptions that block our growth. For instance, when we start working or establish a business, we get involved in all the tasks. As we become adept at some tasks, we can learn new ways of doing things or take more responsibility, only by delegating. A common belief that only ‘I’ can do it or what will ‘I’ do if I let go, inhibits the entrepreneur from delegating, thus obstructs the growth of the person and business.
However, when we take leadership of our thoughts, emotions, actions and outcomes, we can notice our assumptions, beliefs, perceptions and judgements. As our self-awareness grows, we can let go of self-imposed barriers and create space to observe life clearly. This clarity allows us to engage with people and situations objectively. An observer is curious and not attached to the old way of thinking or doing things. Also, awareness of self gives the courage to learn and grow as well as let go of the fear of ‘not knowing’.
Sustaining and Growing an Organization
A master or leader takes ‘sole’ responsibility or leadership of choices, thoughts, emotions, decisions and actions. Whereas, when we assume ‘sole’ responsibility for other people, we limit their ability to grow. We are born with different bits of intelligence, skills and inherent ways of perceiving information. When we let go of our assumptions and perceptions, we can observe others and our inherent attributes and work collaboratively. Therefore, sustaining an organization requires patience and wisdom because a leader knows that letting go creates space to explore new possibilities, unleash creativity, examine new perspectives, experiment with different expressions or techniques. Today, information is available freely on the internet and there is global mobility. Letting go of the responsibility to lead all or be in control of everything creates space for inclusion and empowerment, thus, allowing the leader to be a beacon of possibility.