One of my clients is a senior leader in a large publicly listed company. She tells a story when earlier in her career she received a wake up call about her leadership. Someone gave it to her between the eyes and told her that her leadership was lazy. It changed her whole approach to being a leader.
So what is lazy leadership? It is leadership that lacks intent. It is leadership that lacks purpose or a cause. As a result it is weak, anaemic, and without agency. It lacks conviction rarely lasts once it meets resistance. At best it is benign and ineffectual. At worst, it is self-serving.
Having carefully observed my own leadership efforts and that of others over the last thirty years, a simple correlation has become apparent to me. The greater the clarity and connection a person has to their leadership purpose, the more extraordinary and impactful their leadership.
It’s easy to identify leaders in recent world history that evidence this relationship between purpose, intent and impact. Just think of Ghandi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa. It’s likely though that you can also find it closer to home; the social worker who challenges and invites disconnected youths to engage again with their communities because he believes that everyone should feel they belong; a resident who cares enough about the environment to challenge developers and authorities and risk being arrested; the young woman who calls attention to the entrenched gender inequality in her workplace, met by blank stares, or worse still the patronising placation of those unable to see the entrenched bias.
It’s likely that once you look around for intentional leadership, you will experience hope at seeing it everywhere. You may also experience disappointment that there is not enough of it. That there are too many people in positions of authority who do not exercise leadership because they have no reason to be a leader other than they were anointed to a “leadership” position.
This question of leadership purpose is an important one, and it raises a host of related questions: If leadership is tough, and risky, where does your courage come from? If leadership is required when there is ambiguity and change and uncertainty, what orients it and guides it? If important things take time, tenacity and resilience, what gives you the fuel, the energy, and the capacity to get up day after day and exercise leadership? In all cases the answer is Purpose.
Our workplaces, our communities, and our countries need purposeful, intentional and impactful leadership. Don't be lazy with your leadership. Search for a reason, a why that works for you. Then become intentional with your leadership.