Being a leader, not having the badge
Who else needs to know?
Leadership is made, not purchased, not born. Yesterday I posted a challenge as to why we only look at the leader and not the controls. Today, I wear the other shoe, and seek to show them as a pair. I happened upon a book someone else was reading last weekend. I made a comment on LinkedIn, and I was soon in discussion directly with its author. Surprised as I was with the one to one access, it is completely in keeping with the man. Communication is all, he says. Oak McCulloch, a military leader, living up to both title and first name.
His book “Your Leadership Legacy : becoming the leader you were meant to be”, was, courtesy of very polite prompt, ordered on the Tuesday – Oak’s influence and follow up both said and seen here too. The book arrived on the Thursday afternoon. It was read in a few hours there and then. Another brief discussion accommodated as I concluded this learning project. His words and influence are now sitting between my last blog and this.
Understanding the concepts of what it takes to be a leader is not that difficult. Actually doing the things required of leaders, day in and day out, is another story. Thus, the dichotomy … It’s Not About You; It’s All About YouOakland McCulloch, in summarising the key sentiment of his book
Leadership or controls?
His view is that leadership is all. I have just blogged that we need to take a closer look at the controls, and not just the leadership. Yet, I think we both agree.
Outcomes are steered home or put to the rocks by the clarity of vision, purpose, and execution. The first thing this leader did in each assignment he was set, was check what this vision was intending to be. Next was to check that the control framework was fit for the changes required. The control framework that enables the visibility, the behaviours, and the trust to be aligned. All this within the wider framework of the wider control environment within which he served.
Without a leadership interest in the controls, I conclude we are being presented with neither.
Objectives and Guideposts – building trust
There is reference to Oak’s constant journaling of what leadership is. Journaling that he began from his first cadet days. I really like that. It immediately adds an authenticity to the read. There are quotes from other leaders throughout this book, as a positive reinforcement. They fit perfectly to the first-hand experience and anecdotes. Each seems to have been a message lived by, not retrospectively sought. The book therefore reads as by someone who has lived a life in leadership, reflecting upon its duty, but also diligently seeking more knowledge from others. The mentors. The experiences. The sage words written and passed on. But also recording the pithy sentiments, learned meaning that transformed something more within. Kept accessible to reflect upon and re-apply. That is the dedication to becoming the bastion of the role, not just the title it bestows.
This is the essence of the being mode. Aiming to be more, and not just owning knowledge but seeking it out to apply it. The being leader, leading by example.
v | b | t
He further enshrines the necessity of teaching and being taught. The terms used here I equate to the visibility | behaviour | trust categories I am advocating elsewhere. To delegate by increments of trust, that are backed up by the clarity of what is expected and enabling the recipient to feel empowered to do so with their own flare. Compare that to how we in construction delegate in contract. Low trust, defensive scopes of service intended to have ambiguity to wiggle around our own lack of clarity of prioritised goal, and a tendency to over burden method and dictate behaviours via reporting but ignore the necessary checking and presence to help or intervene. What lessons does each attitude reflect and teach here?
The relevance to projects, and of psychology
I am reminded of the work of Jungian psychologists like Robert Moore or Jean Bolen, in explaining the necessary maturity required to be the balanced leader. Frameworks of personal development can be built from these theories. In Jungian Archetype language leadership is the King or Queen archetype. Moore argues this inner part is in everyone, but that it is the last to develop fully, and only if other key parts have matured first. Only then can the tyrannical petulance and demands of the spoilt child be avoided, or the weakling child be countered along with its passive aggressive apathy.
Moore suggests many never advance beyond this stage because to advance means to find balance to many conflicting but necessary needs. Our instincts and need to train, the warrior preparedness for fight or flight. Our caring and nurturing side, as reflecting our ability to love. Our need to develop ideas and tools to explain and do more, and be less beholden to chance, as our means to teach, mentor, study, discover, and learn anew.
It is this hard-won inner balance within each of these archetypes; the balance between each of their competing desires; that we then take all our delicately balanced parts into the outer world. It is here we attempt to keep our own balance, and account for the imbalance of others toward shared objectives, shared obstacles, as intended changes to what is otherwise just chance. These are all projects | within projects. But they all start with you.
I will admit a bias in my enjoyment of this book. One known to any who know me at all. My father was a military leader. The Royal Navy has a history of its own heroes to boast, as do I. He had to learn all these lessons of leadership from a standing start. Both through experience and later found academics. From his first CSEs at 30 years old, to an MA in Military Strategy in his mid-forties. Working his way up from the most junior rating at 16, to then retire a Commander. A rare story indeed.
There is much in this book I no doubt reflect upon as strengths acknowledged in my own first leader. A tall shadow from which to emerge without some reflective doubt. It is only later in life that I was able to acknowledge my unfinished business with developing my inner King.
From mind to management
With that in mind I will conclude with a final psychological observation. It is with an open mind we should look to understand what leadership is intending each of us to be. Personality and trait theory would argue there is no single flavour of a better way to be. It is therefore our first duty to know ourselves. Our weakness’, our strengths, and our blind spots to both. As with all learning it is then the application that counts. Reading of how others did something well is not a text book to learn by heart. It is a glimpse at what it meant to them, to be. Blindly following another’s formulae is, by its very nature, not to understand what it is to lead. To be, is to apply ourselves to better ends.
Be your own mind
I recommend this read. It is a perspective worth seeing. Reflecting upon behaviours worth applying. Presented from an authority and institution of some trust. It has the clarity of word Oak tells us Napoleon always sought. At around 50,000 words it is a decent single sitting meal. One of those I think Francis Bacon would have offered to be slowly chewed and digested.
“Your Leadership Legacy : becoming the leader you were meant to be” by Oakland McCulloch.