What do leaders have in common?
This question from Seth Godin.
His first response? Nothing.
His second response?
‘Actually they do have one thing in
common … the decision to lead.’*
Without undoing Godin’s important point of there not being a stereotypical leader with a core set of skills, here are some things behind the decision being the common factor.
Leaders know the status quo is a dangerous place to live.
It breeds complacency, quashes imagination, outcasts people who are different, suggests safety when safety no longer resides there, is in direct conflict with how the universe is energy and movement. It’s also where our dissatisfactions prey on us, eating away at us whilst we stay where we are.
Daniel Kahneman refers to a study of some two-and-a-half million golf putts which confirm how golfers, including Tiger Woods, are more intent on obtaining par and avoiding a bogey, than they are on obtaining an eagle. This plays out in study after study referred to by Kahneman. Humans can choose the loss-averse option even when they think they’re not.**
At the same time, there is what Alex McManus calls an ember in the mind, longing to begin a fire, to make a difference, to identify a purpose: not so much “where are we going?” but “why am I making this journey?.”
This is a question that scrutinises characters and personalities. Changemakers (another name for leader) are made from the inside out. This cultivation of character and personality in connection with others and the world and the future Self we long to be, allows for improvisation and spontaneity when opportunities arise, to act now and not wait for tomorrow.
So we can say changemakers care for all kinds of things; they are made up of different skills and talents; they go about things in a plethora of ways. They have nothing in common.
And we can say, changemakers care deeply for people and the world they live in, they want to make their contribution in the Human journey while they can; they know they must develop who they are at the deepest levels to be able to do more than react, but to respond and initiate too. To move from the status quo into action is what they have in common with all leaders.
And everyone can make the decision
(*From Seth’s book Tribes.)
(**And I’m with them more times than I want to count.)