Love this quote from General Eisenhower:
Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done.
Let’s break this phrase down into 3 key elements:
1 – First, you have to figure out what must be done. Not what you want to have done, what should be done, or even what can be done. No sir. We are talking here about what must be done – with absolute certainty. That clarity of what must be done is the starting point – especially when operating in a VUCA* environment! This also means that you have to get the “big things” done – and done right.
2 – Secondly, it’s not about getting people to do it. Rather, it’s about getting people to want to do it. Best selling author and leadership expert Jim Collins says, “If you actually have to rely on power, money, incentives, position, or title, or any of those things to get people to do stuff, you have failed as a leader.” James MacGregor Burns had a great way of putting it, which is that leadership only exists if people follow when they would have the freedom not to follow.
Collins goes on to say, “In business, people confuse leadership and power all the time. If you have a lot of power, it can look like your leading, but actually you’re just using power. Strip away all of your power and would people still do what needs to be done? Then you know you’re leading.”
3 – Finally, leadership is an art, not a science. Sure, you can learn from other artists, dissect what they do well (and not so well). But it’s fool-hardy to copy them. Each leader develops his or her own “artistry” by leveraging his or her own strengths and talents.
Collins says, “What you do is you stand back and say, ‘I’ve got my own artistry, maybe I’m really good at getting the right 10 people in the room and asking one question and that’s how I get it done.’ Maybe it’s, ‘I’m really good with the written word.’ Maybe it’s ‘I’m really good at creating competing forces.’ There’s lots of different ways to be an artist. But it still comes down to what is your art for getting people to want to do what must be done?”
Great question! And when you look at people who become great leaders, they master their artistry along the way.
What are you doing to master your leadership artistry?
*VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous world – that which most of us are operating in!
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF, CSP is a high stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.