How many times have you heard this before after missing a deadline at work: “You need to show more leadership.” And if you get angry with a colleague: “You didn’t show any leadership spirit.”
When a team doesn’t perform well, someone will say the supervisor doesn’t have leadership abilities. I have experienced this scenario for much of my career. At some point, I even started questioning the idea of leadership and asked myself: “Is leadership just an artificial incentive, invented by organizations to make their employees accountable and make them do more work?
In all the above mentioned situations there may be other dynamics at play, but because we’ve coined the term called ‘leadership,’ we throw it around conveniently. Imagine if there was no word called ‘leadership’ in the dictionary. How would we deal with many situations? If work didn’t get done, people would talk about it without finding someone to blame. If a team doesn’t perform, people will talk about the lack of performance and the reasons, and not the leadership abilities of a supervisor.
If there was a power cut, people would not blame the prime minister, but instead work together to solve the problem, or accept the reality and live in darkness. The leadership label is affecting our ability to go deeper on issues. There are hundreds of definitions of leadership and most of them focus on the ‘leader’ and their personal characteristics.
There’s a belief that by adjusting, fixing or changing this one person, we will get the outcome that we want. Leadership is not about an individual. If it’s not about an individual, then what is it about? Leadership is a space in which people come together to realize their individual and collective potential.