Together with my business partner, I run an executive coaching and leadership development consulting firm in Vancouver. And even though I work in the field of leadership, I’ve come to believe that the word is overused and not descriptive enough. It has lost its meaning, I think we need something new. Something that encompasses the expansiveness of what I believe leadership really is.
And I don’t know what that word is.
So, in this blog, I will continue to use the word leadership, with an open invitation to every reader to help me come up with a better term. At Six and a Half Consulting, our definition of leadership is anyone in full self-expression who takes responsibility for their impact, who sees and develops the potential in themselves, others, and systems, and who dares to begin again. And again. This definition comes from a variety of influences like Brene Brown, The Coaches Training Institutes, and even Buddhism, and is cram-packed with rich interpretations.
Let’s dive in.
We believe that leadership is not reserved for people with power. Indeed, many people in positions of authority aren’t leaders at all. We believe that anyone can be a leader. Indeed, full, meaningful lives demand that we do so.
Every human being has a unique way of expressing their humanity, whether it’s through words, clothing, hairstyle, writing, drawing, parenting, or cooking. The list is endless. Being fully self-expressed means knowing your spirit and your truest nature, and continuously finding ways to express it in every moment.
Most people, however, do not live fully expressed lives. They succumb to the pressures of society, of their families, of their institutions, and of their own judgements.
We believe leaders engage in a continuous pursuit of creative self-expression.
As much as leaders are called to be in their full self-expression, they are also required to be in full responsibility for their impact while in full expression. This is a paradox. It’s kind of like begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission AND asking for permission instead of begging for forgiveness. At the same time. Leaders must constantly be fully who they are and also fully responsible for what happens in the world when they are.
Leaders live in a world of what could be. They see possibilities and strive to create worlds where these possibilities come to life. Leaders are visionaries and creators. And they use their influence to bring out the best in situations, relationships, and processes.
Antiquated and unrealistic, the notion that leaders are the fearless forerunners who bring about change is long gone. To lead, we contend, demands facing fear and choosing to move ahead anyway. Without fear, there is no potential to develop. Ironically, if leaders are not afraid, they are not leading.
To be a leader, then, necessitates courage. The courage to face uncertainty and begin again. In an odd way, then, leadership is about failure. It is about not getting it right and beginning again. And again.
At its essence, leadership — perhaps the human experience itself — is a perfectly messy dance towards mastery. And the more we dance, the more we learn how many steps and turns and pivots and spins we got right. And how many more there are for us to fall flat on our faces.
Leadership, you see, is so much bigger than its definition. So big that I don’t know what to call it. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!