As we see MP's in the UK on the take, as we see CEO's on the make, as we see a world of so called leaders who say one thing but live another, this is surely time to remind ourselves what true leadership can be
"This is a book for people who aspire to be leaders or to understand leadership, so let's start with a definition:
Leadership is about creating change. While many like to see themselves as leaders, mostly they are engaging in three different pursuits that we commonly confuse with leadership:
Rulership is about protecting and preserving one's position of power and privilege through methods that sometimes include manipulation, coercion, force and violence....
Stewardship is the responsible and intelligent management of established institutions. Good stewards might run things much more efficiently and profitably than their predecessors did but they don't try to change their culture's entrenched values and priorities.....
Lemmingship occurs when heads of organizations repeat the same practices and strategies that have brought ruinous consequences for others in their fields (though they often get away with enriching themselves extraordinarily while they are at it. In recent decades America's automobile and airline industries have proved deplorable examples of Lemmingship. And so has Wall Street of course. Lemmingship is what we usually end up with when leadership is what we need."
We all talk about the need for change. But we also all know how hard change really is. Alan's book Change or Die showed why real change - which involves a change of deeply held beliefs - cannot be mandated or "managed". It can only be Modeled.
For in truth we only learn by imitation. We only learn by imitation.
So Alan's thesis is that there can be no disconnect in the leader between the action and the change. In particular, the most important lessons have to be the ones where the test is the greatest.
Martin Luther King was confronted at a meeting by a KKK man who was striking him. MLK stepped back, while on stage, and literally offered his attacker another shot at him. He told everyone to back off and not to harm the attacker. He then took him into a private room and talked things out. His key objective was to show that he meant business when he told people that they had to be non violent.
MLK's power relied on the movement being non violent. If he had in the smallest way shown by his behavior that for himself this did not matter, he would have lost everything.
MLK's power came from his willing to act. He would not strike back.
On the other hand many have felt the dissonance in Al Gore's message about the environment when they learned how Mr Gore lived - in a 10,000 square foot mansion. Imagine if Gore had voluntarily simplified hos life as well as written the book? How much more powerful would his message be?
It is clear that Rulers and Lemmingleaders are not needed today. I can make a case that even a good Steward is not the right fit for today either. Making an organization more efficient when it cannot cope with the changes that confront it is not enough.
But merely telling people to change does not work. Telling traditional journalists that unless they change they will die - does not work. Telling my alcoholic members of my family that they have to stop drinking did not work. My wife telling me to lose weight is not working.
Why is real change so hard and why does it not respond to ideas or orders?
To change we have to give up an important part of who we are. Part of us has to die. This is no small ask!
So how does Alan see the leader being able to do this. How does he get me to give up an important part of me and to become a new person?
Alan's research tells him that there are 4 elements of belief that leader must be able to master in able to do this.
First - that he must believe in himself. When you are doing something really new, most people think that you are mad. Many times you are not in a place of influence or power. Imagine Nelson Mandela in jail for life. How could he think that he could be the leader of his country. A country that would include whites and blacks? How could President Obama have thought that he could be president? It takes a special courage to believe like this. This conviction is not to be confused with the millions who hope to become a star or win a lottery. This is not a fantasy but a true conviction that you really have the stuff to do what you believe that you can do. A belief that sets you off on a course of action that will take you there.
Second - that leaders need to believe that their people can do it too - that they can change. Alan uses the example of the GM Fremont plant that was taken over by Toyota. One of GM's worst plants. Where GM responded to failure by cracking down on control even more. Here Toyota showed the employees and the unions that it knew that they could be different. The plant is one of the best in the US now.
Third - That leaders have to inspire their people by their own actions that show how much they believe in and care for their people. Southwest airlines senior staff took the biggest hit in the last recession. KIPP teachers don't just hang out in the classroom but give out their cell phone numbers to their kids - they are on call all the time. The leader have to give of themselves for their people. Again it's not what you say - it's what you do that counts.
Fourth - leaders have to help their people believe in themselves by highlighting the modelling of the new by the people themselves. This is how AA works. Your Sponsor is not a white-coated outside expert but another frail human like you who has made the changes that he hopes you will make. That has failed as you will but who has got back on track. Leaders set up the conditions where those who have made the change set the example as peers for the others for who the change may seem impossible.
Surely this is a time when leadership - being able to change core beliefs of how the world works - might be critical to our future?
Many systems - food, money, energy, politics etc are in dire need of renewal. But they are held by powerful belief systems.
We don't need any more Rulers, Stewards or Lemmingleaders. We need leaders.
Alan concludes the book with this piece of advice:
"Ultimately it doesn't depend on who you are, even what you say or how you say it, but only on what you do. Although leadership is very difficult, it is also breathtakingly simple: it all depends on what how you walk the walk."
I am going to build on these ideas in the pst that I will be doing on Character and the Natural Organization.