Yes, I can almost hear you saying: “what more can Oren really add to the topic of leadership?” And my answer is: there will never be enough to say on such a complex and essential human endeavour that has been core to our existence over the centuries. Whilst I do not profess to be an all-encompassing leadership guru by any means and have certainly not published ground-breaking theories in any leadership journals, I am both a passionate student in a theoretical sense and have also been an active participant in a real world context.
I think it is fair to say that many of us have a relatively good grasp on understanding leadership dynamics and there is just so much valuable information out there, not only on how to be an effective leader, but even knowing what or when to apply particular leadership skills or traits in different situations. What I am really interested in, is looking at leadership in the moment or when you are in the trench so to speak – at a kinesthetic or experiential level.
The only way I feel I can examine this, is to explore my own self reflections as both leader and follower. A good starting point would be to broadly acknowledge that emotional self-awareness and awareness of others plus emotional self-management and management of others are some of the basic tenets of navigating the leadership labyrinth. KNOWING all of this is one thing, ACTING on it is a completely different story. In the past, I have sometimes been labelled passionate or fiery. For some, this has been incredibly energising and has helped with exerting greater influence, while for others it may cause an uneasiness where there may be a perception of emotional self-management that is tipping over – “wear your heart on your sleeve” argument. In other situations, I have been described as a strong collaborator or even peacemaker, which in and of itself exudes compassion and vulnerability, but the reality on the ground often demands a greater level of direction and decisiveness. The point I am trying to make, is that leadership is not overly complicated to understand and rationalise, it is just very difficult to put into practice.
To fully appreciate leadership at a conceptual level, I believe it is just as important to reflect on your own experiences as a follower in order to gain a richer perspective and further understand the multidimensional nature of this vitally important organisational and societal construct. I must say, I have been fortunate enough to have been led by many different people throughout my career, all of which have displayed very different leadership styles and unique personality traits. Whilst every single one of them have helped shape my own leadership practice in one way or another, what sticks with me most is how I actually experienced their authenticity as a leader and how their interactions impacted on my energy levels, rather than focusing on any specific outcomes, either agreed or disagreed upon.
From what I can gather, the notion of a leader having the ability to maintain their emotional state at the “being” rather than the “acting” level is surely the key to mobilising or influencing those around them. In my opinion, leadership is merely a universal practice and not necessarily an innate talent. Great leaders also recognise and acknowledge there are always choices and alternatives in every situation, even in a crisis.
To end off, I draw some inspiration from the great chef and a real legend, the late Anthony Bourdain, where he wrote in his book, Kitchen Confidential: “Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman – not an artist”. Is leadership an art, science or craft? I know my answer, what do you think?