Leadership: The Way It Looks vs The Way It Feels

I wrote this post about management potential that’s gotten a lot of eyeballs in the past month or so. As with most things, I didn’t think much of it when I published it but it’s been a highly-read and most-shared blog post of this year.

Funny how that happens.

via gapingvoid

And as I spent a bit more time thinking through that post and why it was resonating so well (and widely) with folks I imagined that it came down to much of how we perceive leadership and management.

Even in my own life I know that the mental model around those two things is grossly wrong, despite the fact that I’ve held leadership and management positions!

You see, we’d love leadership to fit nicely into some artwork, a few straight lines, and something that I can easily drop into a powerpoint presentation… but leadership in the real world is entirely different.

And, if it’s artwork, it’s the messiest version you’ve ever seen.

So, as I sit here and think through the excitement that I have to be building the team @ Pinpoint, I try to do all that I can to remove any of the rose-colored glasses that I (probably) have on.

I’m doing all that I can to ask the hard questions of whether now is the right time to be growing the team or if we are (if I am) ready for that type of responsibility, once again.

Leadership is more than just implementing a “best in breed” management system and management is more than executing a “best practice” leadership model.

I think that it’s about staying humble to the reality that you’re not as good of a leader as you think you are and that any system or model that you’re executing against will almost immediately break if you don’t stay fluid and flexible.

Why? Because an organization of one is easy to lead and manage; any system and model will do. But the moment you add other people and their messy hopes, dream, skills, experiences, history, issues, and ideas and ideals… your system has to change because others are now involved in the model.

And, if you do it right, you’ll invite them to help you build the best system that can support the folks that are currently on the team; instead of blindly applying one that you built in isolation I believe it’s far better to collaborate with the growing and expanding team to create one that supports the folks who are actually on the team.

Yes, you and I will do everything we can to make it look pretty… and some of those efforts will be worth the effort. But we can’t forget that it’s hiding the mess, just below the surface… you know, the good stuff that makes it all worth while.