Ahh, the fearless leader – striding forward, blazing a trail, thinking, and acting independently – basically going it alone. It is an image that seems to resonate with a lot of people, something baked into at least the American consciousness. But is it completely accurate? Isn’t it missing something? Something like other people?
I recently graduated from the Leadership Montana Master’s Class, an 8-month program designed to help Leadership Montana alumni take a deeper dive into the concept of leadership and what it means to them. It was fascinating, challenging, overwhelming, eye-opening, and visionary all at once. I am still processing everything I learned and will be for quite a while. But one thing which really stood out to me during the final session in June was my new understanding of how empty leadership is without other people.
Of course, leadership means looking at issues in new ways, setting goals, creating a vision, reframing questions, building order out of confusion, etc. But why is a leader doing that? Is it just for internal satisfaction? Or is it to share the journey, to bring others forward, to create understanding and connection? As important as personal growth is, I do not think that is the end goal of leadership. I think leadership is finding ways to create a shared vision.
The process of leadership can be messy. It can involve a lot of false starts. It can need mid-course corrections and the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. But it must involve other people. It must be about that connection and creating a team dedicated to a common goal – a goal which is bigger than any single person, even the leader.
In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Senior Vice President