A meander through a bookshop is always good fodder for covetousness. This weekend my favourite foodies, Allan Campion and Michelle Curtis’ new kitchen companion has jump started my Christmas list. I was less taken by the newest collection of business leadership material. Not because it is any less read-worthy, I think I’m just getting jaded. Is there anything new under the sun?
What is leadership anyway? Or more importantly, why does it remain such an important topic?
I think of it as the capacity to create a reality for people that would not have otherwise existed. It remains a critical skill because there are more and more arenas for which more of the same will not be good enough.
I thought the cover of last week’s Economist was brilliant. The swankering, thoughtful (then) presidential nominee captured on a blank canvas. What a picture of leadership!
But it is equally appropriate to learn about leadership in more mundane contexts. For example, peddling home from the gym yesterday morning, I was contemplating the day ahead … nothing particularly compelling or attractive. An opportunity to create a different reality, which in the end turned out to be a simple picnic with Maria and two of our kids on the waterfront at Williamstown. Extremely pleasant.
One of the things I love about Maria is her belief in choice; the idea that there are a multitude of options available. There are two things that prevent us from making creative and liberating decisions:
1. We are comfortable and stuck at the same time … it is so much easier to keep doing the same thing.
2. We are typically reluctant to embrace the consequences and risks associated with alternative choices.
We could move to the country. We could change jobs. We could consume less. We could branch out. We could develop a new product, or even a new way of doing business. Things do not have to be this way. In this society, money usually ends up being king, the reason we don’t do stuff. Of course money is needed for certain choices, but we give it too much control.
Leadership is impossible if we believe that the current reality is a given. Leaders do not take tomorrow as a given. If we are going to realise our desires to live without regrets, it is fundamental that we find ways to make (leadership) decisions that create new trajectories on our lives.