7 Ways Leadership Is Bigger Than You Think

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What is leadership, anyway? Is it the same as it was when you first stepped into a leadership role?

The short answers are “More than you think” and “Probably not, unless you’re new here.”

In distilling takeaways from my wide-ranging conversation last month with Lori Galen Fuchs, director of the Leadership Essentials program at Loyola University, I found two major themes:

  1. Leadership skills, which I covered last month
  2. Emerging leadership trends, which is this month’s topic

To make it easy for you, I’ve categorized the trends into 7 ways Lori and I think about leadership today. In fact these trends overlap. I think you’ll see themes emerging and resurfacing throughout.

1. Leadership isn’t just for work.

Traditionally people coming into emerging leadership programs are early- to mid-career professionals under age 40. Some have direct reports and others do not. They are sent by their companies to grow into their current or near-future roles. Lori still sees many such participants.

But she also sees people who come in “by virtue of their participation on work committees or affinity groups. They come from corporate responsibility, social justice, nonprofit and community work, and other organizations besides the companies they work for.”

For example, she said, one participant was a master gardener who wanted to “consider their opportunities for connection and build their leadership skills and abilities.”

2. Leadership is a life skill.

Leadership goes beyond serving your organization and advancing your career. Many emerging leaders, including the ones Lori described above, are interested in personal growth and an ability to make a difference in the world.

Knowing when and how to lead and when to follow, I would add, is a life skill. You can apply leadership skills like collaboration, communication, and compromise in every aspect of your life, including family and leisure.

3. Practice, practice, practice.

It’s not just how to get to Carnegie Hall; it’s how to get anywhere worth getting to. Leadership is a practice. It’s something you have to work at every day of your life. You need to develop intention about when and how you lead and, particularly, about how you learn to be a better leader.

4. You gotta have heart.

When people ask Lori how to succeed in her program, she tells them, “Bring an open heart and an open mind. Be open not only to what you’ll get but to what you’ll give. It might sound hokey, but that’s the key.”

5. Command-and-control is dead (or at least dying).

The authoritarian model never worked very well, at least not for long. Lori and I are seeing more emphasis, among leaders and those who teach them, on collaboration.

“I’ve definitely seen students who needed convincing,” said Lori. “I’ve learned that being in their face doesn’t work; it’s for them to figure out. My own learning here is that I don’t have to be right or make a point. What people make of the program is what they get out of it.”

Lori is practicing (see #3) what she preaches!

6. The definitions of leadership and leaders are expanding.

“Increasingly the world is embracing leadership in all its forms,” said Lori. “People from different backgrounds make different contributions.”

This observation applies, of course, to race, gender, and other aspects of demographic diversity.

It also has to do with motivations and backgrounds. Lori gave an example of a large company that had leaders from two tracks: up through the ranks and college grads. Each valued only their path–not seeing that practical experience plus education has to be stronger than either alone.

“If we can honor the strengths all parties bring,” said Lori, “we all will have broader success.”

7. Coaching is transformative.

Leadership Essentials has three components: classroom training, coaching, and a community impact project. Lori noted, “I’ve had people tell me that the coaching changed their life.”

As you might expect, some alumni benefited from promotions, awards, and other recognition at work. Other people realized a wide array of benefits. Some founded nonprofits. Others took on side gigs or started to pursue speaking engagements.

You don’t have to enroll in a program to get coaching that can transform your leadership! Whether you are an emerging leader or a seasoned executive, you can benefit from exploring your goals, strengths, and needs with an experienced coach. Sign up for a free session with me to see whether coaching is right for you.

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