Leadership Becoming

By Chris Chittenden

A vast amount of money is spent each year around the world to train organisational leaders. There has also been a great deal written about how to be a great leader. Indeed, if you go into any major bookstore you will find hundreds of books on leadership. People obviously buy these books in large numbers. This leads us to the conclusion that being a good leader is important to many people.

In some ways the money that has been spent to learn leadership has been well spent. Go into most large organisations and talk to the organisational leaders about leadership and you will hear what they have learnt in those programs and books. However, if you observe leadership in action you will often reach a different conclusion. Even though many leaders can talk leadership, they cannot or do not translate it in everyday ways of leading. Why is this?

In large part, it can be put down to the leaders’ ways of being and observing. In other words, they may have intellectually learnt the skills of leadership, but they do not see situations in a way that would have them employ those skills. For example, many organisational leaders see the people who work for the organisation as a resource. At some level, this way of thinking can be seen in the well-used term “human resources”. As a resource, the person has value as long as they are useful to the organisation. In this way of thinking, people fit in some way into a similar mould as all other resources – computers, cars and so on. When we think about resources, we think about how we can control and get the most out of them. Hence a leader with such a view will at some level seek to control and use the people who work in their organisation for their own ends. Yet most, if not all, leadership texts would tell us that leaders should empower and bring out the best in their employees for shared goals. When we seek to control people, we dis-empower them. This creates a situation where the learnt skills may be inconsistently applied leading to uncertain outcomes.

Good leadership is a practice not just a set of knowledge. To be more effective as leaders, individuals must develop their way of being and observing to a level that is congruent with the skills they have learnt. Learning leadership skills can provide a catalyst for a change in being, but this is generally not going to generate such a shift. Changes in an individual’s way of being are not found in training programs. They occur when an individual cannot find answers to life’s problems through their current way of observing to the point that they must change. A new way of being is more often found through personal inquiry into self. It is the journey of a lifetime.

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© 2007 Chris Chittenden