Don’t Reject Leadership, Redefine It

By Sally McCutchion and originally published on

I’ve been working in and around the area of self-management for about 10 years now.

Overall, this management philosophy has a lot to offer but one of the things that bugs me the most about it is how it inadvertently implies there’s no longer a place for leadership.

Some of the other mistruths around self-management are:

You should now be able to resolve all of your own barriers and challenges, effectively working in isolation.

Self-Management itself will resolve all your business challenges.

The skills and qualities of your brightest leaders should be dumbed down.

Any limitations caused by various interpersonal dynamics will dissolve.

You will no longer need to invest in your leadership.

The truth is that shifting beyond hierarchy is a more nuanced path than the term ‘self-management’ implies…

And leadership has never been more important.

Photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez on Unsplash

So this month, I’m writing about leadership, about sourcing ideas, holding a vision and engaging people around you to bring the vision to life.

In particular, I’m tapping into these 3 questions:

~ Why is leadership so important?

~ How can we redefine our relationship with leadership?

~ What is the link between leadership and power?

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Why is leadership so important?

At the very core of leadership is the concept of someone initiating an idea.

In business terms, this idea is usually something that helps make the world go round, something that people need or something that helps resolve a problem.

And yes, it’s also common that in business terms, this idea is usually built around generating revenue or profit.

But in my experience, when you tap into that moment when the idea for a business sparked for the very first time, the idea has very little to do with money…

The spark is about purpose, intention and energy for the creation of something.

Initiating an idea and holding space to fulfil purpose is the concept behind why leadership is so important.

Photo by Jakub Skafiriak on Unsplash

It’s not uncommon that this concept of initiating an idea and holding a vision gets a little lost among leaders.

Afterall, there’s bunch of other stuff that regularly gets in the way: supporting the interpersonal dynamics or emotional challenges within your team, maintaining the perception of being ‘in control’, navigating changing market conditions and financial pressures… to name just a few.

The reality is that these things are red herrings of leadership.

…They can all be outsourced, delegated or integrated into processes that free up space to get to the core of leadership:

Reminding yourself what the core purpose and intention of your role and your organisation is.

Remembering what inspires you and those around you to do what you do.

Capturing the essence of why your organisation exists in every piece of communication.

Placing purpose, energy and enthusiasm at the core of your team.

Holding the vision for fulfilling your purpose.

Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

How can we redefine our relationship with leadership?

From a young age, we start to experience all kinds of different examples of leadership. Some of these experiences are positive, others less so…

But unless we are supported to truly keep sight of the significance of that first spark of initiation, the core purpose of the team, idea or organisation, we are highly likely to fall into some of the traps of leadership.

Here are some of the myths around leadership that need debunking:

As a leader, you should be the go-to person to support all interpersonal or emotional challenges within your team.

Communication of key business information should be instigated by you.

You should not show any vulnerability to your team.

You are the best person to chair or facilitate most internal meetings

Your people should learn from you (…not the other way round!)

And yup, it’s all too easy to fall into these traps and even create an internal belief that doing these things is the definition of being a good leader.

The truth is there are number of ways that you can shift this belief and create conditions for true leadership to take front and centre:

1. Acknowledge that as human beings, there will always be interpersonal challenges or emotional situations to deal with at work.

2. Invest in the development of self-awareness and honest communication within your team.

3. Create regular relational spaces where your team can talk, listen and relate with each other safely.

4. Develop peer to peer support and learning structures that remove you from the centre of the loop.

5. Use Open Space to enable key business information to be integrated and ideas and comments generated by your people, instead of you.

6. Create a process for your team meetings that means the same structure can be utilised whether you are present or not.

7. Rotate who facilitates the various team meetings that you need.

8. Write a list of all of the best qualities and skills of each of your team members.

9. Utilise a Role Map to help everyone in your team understand their strengths and opportunities.

10. Take time to access the support you need to feel truly engaged with your purpose and vision.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

What is the link between leadership and power?

There are examples of the glamour of power almost everywhere we look. From social media ‘influencers’ to celebrities, from political figures to high profile business leaders. Our exposure to what power looks like is even influenced by our parents, teachers and sometimes, our friendships.

The illusion of power is hypnotic and addictive but true power* is only found within.

True power doesn’t need to control anyone of anything.

True power defines boundaries in which people can thrive.

True power embraces the full reality of who we are and what we can achieve.

When it comes to the connection between leadership and power, we need to be really, really careful.

Redefining leadership is all about noticing the ways that we might be using the cover of leadership to exert power over others.

When we notice how the dynamics of power are playing out, we can begin to shift towards using our power differently…

Defining spaces and processes for work to flow.

Using structures that mean we can learn from our team.

Creating peer to peer communication and support.

Power is just as hypnotic when we use it as an internal resource and model that resource in our leadership.

Check out this conversation between Kajal Pandey and I for more on the subject of true power.

Photo by Brad Starkey on Unsplash

And Finally…

I’m noticing more and more that there is a readiness for change around leadership and power.

But change can be tricky, and depending on your experiences you might be finding your readiness for change frustrating, liberating, empowering, upsetting or energising.

So discovering the lyrics of this David Bowie track was a real pleasure this month.

I’ve always appreciated Bowie’s creativity, uniqueness and strength and I love finding a track that just seems to lift the spirits.

Here’s David Bowie with his 1972 track, Changes…

‘I still don’t know what I was, waiting for…’

Listen to David Bowie’s Changes

Afterthoughts by Enlivening Edge Magazine Editor:

If you would like some broader context for this article to help tie ideas together here is another article on some of the other functions of leadership. And here are some of our tags on leadership: change leadership leadership

Republished with permission.

Featured Image and some paragraph spacing added by Enlivening Edge Magazine. Image by David Bruyland from Pixabay