The Rocket Science of Leadership... : The Lift | Brian@GrowthWorks

The Rocket Science of Leadership...

by Brian McDermott on 07/01/11

Good leadership is tough to define. I’m beginning to think the term is so complex it’s impossible to pin down. It’s one of those “you know it when you see it” things… and we all see things so differently.

Forgive the unoriginal approach to making a point, but a two-tenths-of-second web search on “leadership” turns up 138 million citations. A “scholarly” search turns up 1.7 million hits. And if you’re looking for something to hold in your hands to read, you’ll be glad to know Amazon has more than 60,000 titles to choose from.

One of those books begins, “Leadership isn’t rocket science. Our experience says that great leadership is far more complex than that…” The book is one that Gerry Sexton and I wrote a few years ago, Leading Innovation: Creating Workplaces Where People Excel So Organizations Thrive. My sentiments about the difficulty of being a good leader have only been amplified since finishing the book.

My friend and colleague Steve Boehlke puts it this way in the introduction to a “little book” he published, 50 Lessons on Leading for Those With Little Time for Reading (each page is essentially a one-sentence thought provoker): “Whether reading the ancient wisdom of Lao Tzu, the power politics of Machiavelli, or the insights of today’s leadership guru Jim Collins, authorities on leadership abound. While humans have been attempting to define leadership for centuries, a clear and simple definition remains elusive. We are often left with the feeling that leadership is beyond ourselves--something we seek, but is beyond our reach.”

The work we do at GrowthWorks with leaders focuses on linking creativity, knowledge, and the human spirit. There are hard core business types who dismiss this kind of "soft" stuff. The evidence is growing, however, that successful leadership is not an either-or proposition when it comes to hard stuff and soft stuff. Both are required.

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