It is naive in the extreme to imagine that one of the most vital and complex human constructs and behaviours
can or should be defined or described in a single slogan, tagline or soundbite.
An expectation to do so, or to offer one, is a primary reason why we stumble over a litany of contrived offerings that each ends up being so blunt that we are left dissatisfied and confused with what ‘leadership’ and ‘leader’ exactly are, or are not.
But, I also appreciate that we need to capture the essence of things; that we need a starting or reference point.
Such an approach acknowledges that there is much more below the headline; the details that makes all the difference.
Karoo applies the above-mentioned approach to influential Leadership.
Influential Leadership thus has a tagline that gives expression to its essence.
The tagline is founded on the extended version that opens the page above. It captures four of the five essential layers, with the fifth subsumed.
The idea is to be silent on the most important element – leaving it hanging for emphasis.
But, there surely must be a meaning beyond the finely crafted words, which should answer the basic question:
What is it all about?
What is the bother with leadership as a concept, and with influential Leadership in particular? It is this –
Influential Leadership is the process of realising a better lived life.
Influential Leaders craft the process and ensure the realisation of the right outcomes.
As mentioned above, taglines and one-liners leave too much to interpretation and confusion; they are memorable, but can be blunt. *
There need to be details that offer way-points on a road-map so that there is greater precision; some of these are set out below.
In addition, it is useful to appreciate what something ‘is not’ to better understand what it is. This is a form of negative imaging.
But, there is also a general point to be made in answer to the question, what is it all about; which is that leadership has played and needs to play a central role in every nook and cranny of our economic, political and social domains.
The words of Harry Truman, quoted on the ‘START here’ page, and that are institutionalised in Karoo’s and iLP’s lexicon, offer the strategic riposte to the above question, and can be unfolded in the following way in our lived lives.
While technically skilled and well-resourced people, systems, processes, structures and management competencies are necessary ingredients for functional organisations of all kinds, they are insufficient to ensure sustained success, in its narrow and broadest sense.
The element that not only holds all the other pieces together, but orchestrates them to ensure sustained success is leadership. Evidence abounds that leadership is the ingredient that sets successful people and entities apart from others.
* At this stage there are likely to be loose concepts that readers may be unfamiliar with, such as, ‘right’, ‘better’, ‘lived lives’, ‘better lived lives’, and so forth.
Each of them has form and shape; they are carefully defined in the activation program material.
influential Leadership is…
- built on a philosophical foundation that gives it enduring substance
- governed by a set of underlying principles
- productive and pursues credible and legitimate outcomes relevant to the objective conditions
- democratic, inclusive and people-centered
- a choice that can be exercised by every individual, not matter their title, position or status
- a skill that can be learned and honed with practice
- a wall-to-wall discipline across every social domain
- bound by what is right
- leveraged through personal behaviours
- autonomous of titles, positions and personalities
- measurable, both the inputs (behaviours) and outcomes
- smart at integrating responsibilities and rights
- characterised by allies, associates, collaborators and partners
- held together by an established architecture
- radical in both its practice and its objectives
- rooted in South Africa, yet is universal with global ambitions
influential Leadership is not…
- outdated, obsolete and a cause of our current crises
- a function of personality, power, position or a title
- preordained, a certificate or the size of a wallet
- exclusive, restrictive or the preserve of the few
- built on personal expediency or self-serving
- contradictory to legitimate outcomes
- irresponsible, irrational or foolish
- undemocratic or brutish
- management or control
- open ended or vague
More is required than just a mild tweaking of the system.
We have gone too far down the wrong road for
that to be possible. We have to construct
a new social contract that enables
everyone in our country
to live a decent life.
Joseph Stiglitz (ed.)
A central tenet of influential Leadership is choice –
not only the choice we exercise to be an influential Leader, or not,
but on a broader scale, how we live our lives.
Just about the only decision or behaviour we have
no choice over, is our coming into the world.
Here we yield to the ‘universe’.
Soon thereafter, we exercise choice, we have agency
over our behaviours, including whether we take
personal responsibility for our life and its outcomes.
While we do not choose our place and time, or the start we have,
we need not be captive to these, whether we’re born with a silver spoon
between the gums, or into destitution –
(without trivialising the nature and scale of choices separating the two conditions.)
Not choosing is also a choice; it is the worst kind of choice;
it gives others the power to choose for you.
It is both irresponsible and indifferent.
It is wrong.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Perhaps it is my inclination towards behavioural economics that has persuaded me that choice is,
and must be, a center piece to how we live our lives; that we are responsible agents for our behaviours,
Whether we like it or not, whether we realise it or not, every choice we make,
even a non-choice, has an end result.
Each person has the freedom, the opportunity, to choose to be an influential Leader.
The offer, the opportunity is extended to you;
as a first step in the process of becoming an influential Leadership Activist.
In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves.
And the process never ends until we die.
The choices we make are ultimately
our own responsibility.
a Better Lived Life
Everyone wants a ‘better life’ – a ‘better lived life’ – the way we live our lives…
No matter how we define the concept for ourselves – such as –
- a better job (more money, greater scope, higher income, recognition …),
- a more successful business (bigger, more profitable, recognition, greater market share, and so forth),
- improved (more) choices (to live, work, travel, education, health-care),
- convenient transport – whether private or public (access to employment, choices, fun),
- homes that meet our needs (dignified housing),
- safety and security in our homes, at work, moving about,
- participating in recreation activities, a sports team (life satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment),
- more leisure time (a work-life balance),
- freedom to express our views without censure (freedom to participate in civic engagement), and
- to enjoy health and longevity.
We’ve all got our lists.
This notion plays roles in both the philosophy and practice of influential Leadership.
While Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (read more here) may have its flaws and detractors, it is indicative of how humans keep pushing their aspirations (for a better life) forwards. Even those at the ‘top’ are forever chasing a better lived life.
Each of us arrives in the world with our own unique context – our place and time – which gives us our endowment of life.
Whatever we get has nothing to do with us – it is fate, luck; call it an accident of history.
It is history’s gift (or curse, some may argue) to each person.
However, the general context of our starting point is not an accident of history. It is the outcome of generations of effort and leadership.
As we know, people and societies who exercise leadership push the frontiers of learning science, art, technology and social benefit forwards,
for themselves, others and the future.
So, each person’s starting point is ‘accidental’ to them as they have had no influence on it.
It is those who came before them who are responsible for their particular starting point.
But, what happens from here onward is up to each person.
Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her:
but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide
how to play the cards in order to win the game [of life].
(Unconfirmed attribution to) Voltaire