In leadership all of us are on P.A.R. This is one of the fundamental leadership principles on which I stand.
“Take me to your leader.”
Imagine that you are watching your favorite cartoon show. Your favorite cartoon character is out in a field and along comes a flying saucer that lands near them. Out comes a space alien who then walks, floats, slithers over to the cartoon character. And what is the first thing the alien says? “Take me to your leader.”
What comes to your mind when you hear that? If someone, a space alien or anyone, said that to you where would you take them? Would you take them to meet your manager? Your CEO? The governor? The president?
Or would you take them to meet your coworker who whenever you’re faced with a difficult problem helps you see things from a new perspective and helps you find a way forward?
Or would you take them to meet your child’s Little League coach who not only teaches the kids the skills of the game but also the value of teamwork, and in the process inspires the parents and brings a community together?
When we hear the terms leader or leadership we tend to think in terms of structure, with a point at the top. And the ones who are highest up, who are ahead of the rest of us in the quest to get to the pinnacle, they are the leaders. No.
Leadership is not a position. And if there is no position, there is no structure, no pyramid.
When it comes to leadership, everyone is on PAR. P. A. R. Each of us has the permission to lead. Each of has the Ability to lead. And each of us has the Responsibility to lead.
You have the permission to lead. You don’t need to have a certain title. You don’t need to be above a particular level in an organization. You don‘t even need to be a manager. You just need to be you.
So much of the information on leadership is confusing and misleading, suggesting that leadership and management are interchangeable terms. Or that leadership is a higher form of management. But leadership and management are actually distinct, unique concepts, and leadership is not exclusive to management. Yes, managers need to be leaders, but so do those of us who are not managers. Confusing the two impedes the individual growth and fulfillment of everyone, including managers.
Don’t be confused by the mixed messages. Just know that you have the permission to lead, whoever you are, whatever role you may be in.
And you have the ability to lead. It may be intimidating if you’ve always thought of leadership as something executives do; or if you think of the great leaders like Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa.
But at its core leadership is really quite simple. It begins as simply as saying, “What if ….” or “You know, we could …” or “I don’t think that’s right. Could you explain that to me?” If you can look at a situation and see it for what it is, and have some idea of how things could be better, and should be better, and you care enough about the people in the situation to want to move them from here to there, then the seeds of leadership have sprouted in you.
From there then you can do a lot to become a better leader. Leaders are learners. Learn listening skills, because listening is so critical to leadership. Learn about personality types, so that you better can understand people and influence them. Build trust, relationships, your network. Start where you are today and grow from there.
You have the permission to lead. You have the ability to lead. And you have the responsibility to lead. Have you ever heard someone say, “Why doesn’t somebody do something?!” That’s a red flag phrase. The question of a leader is instead, “What can I do?”
Another red flag phrase is, “It’s not my job.” Well, you can take that with a grain of salt because leadership isn’t a job.
Similar is, “I don’t have the authority.” Ok, leadership isn’t about authority, it’s about influence. If the situation at hand truly is a matter of authority, then figure out who does have the authority to take the necessary action or make the decision. And then your question is, “How can I influence them?” “How can I use my influence to help this person of authority to take a better action, or to make a better decision?”
It’s important to note that being a responsible leader doesn’t mean you’re always leading. The great leaders have the wisdom to know when to follow. When others will not lead, then stand up and lead. And when others cannot lead, then stand in. But when others will lead then stand back, and follow. And always stand strong.
And when it comes your time to lead know that you are fully capable of succeeding brilliantly. Also realize that you are fully capable of totally screwing it up. And that’s ok! Be open, authentic and honest at all times, and learn from the experience no matter the outcome. The leader isn’t the one that gets it right. The leader is the one who gets it, who understands that it’s all about people. It’s messy and confusing and complex, but that’s why we need leaders.
So if someone ever does say to you, “Take me to your leader,” tell them, “Here I am. And here you are.” We’re on PAR – We each have the Permission, the Ability and the Responsibility to lead. Let’s go! Lead on!