What is leadership?

leadership Oct 14, 2020
Alfred  Aloushy

If you ask leaders what leaders do, they’ll talk about KPIs, profits, cost ratios, growth, product development and so on. They achieve improvement in these areas by setting strategic goals, implementing performance management and systems and establishing metrics to measure progress. They may talk about the importance of being inspiring and visionary, communicating clearly and prioritising their time. And if you ask them what they’re actually doing on a daily basis to make this all come about, they’ll tell you they’re horribly busy, in back to back meetings, drowning in to do lists, email, calls, conferences and travel. All fairly predictable then…

If you ask them what’s going on inside themselves, in their inner world - how they think, feel or notice everything that happens inside themselves or between them and others – they may well look bewildered. American psychologist Ken Wilber came up with a model to synthesise all these aspects of human experience, namely the objective worlds of “IT”, the subjective world of “I” and the interpersonal world of “WE”, known all together as the AQAL model[1].

This is a helpful starting point. Too many leaders spend pretty much all their time on the exterior worlds of IT/IT’s and much less awareness of the interior worlds of I or WE that could drive performance by helping them to show up better, feel younger, smarter and happier, and crucially cultivate and unleash disruption in their organisations.

If we focus on the I and WE dimensions the conversation begins to shift away from KPIs, data, goals and performance and towards integration, true awareness of self, creating conditions for systemic thinking and the importance of relational dynamics. From here we can better ask the question about what leadership is really for.

The best definition I have ever got was from a regional CEO of a major international bank. He told me he thought the real purpose of leadership was…

... to get the discretionary effort from my people such that the wider organisation benefits.

Or as John F Kennedy famously put it…

...to be the tide that raises all the boats.

And in those definitions should lie the core of all leadership motivation and every effort of coaches and other development professionals to support leaders. Pure and Simple.

James Parsons September 30th 2020. james@defyexpectations.co.uk 


[1]  Ken Wilber (2000). A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality, p. 153. Boston: Shambhala Publications. ISBN 1-57062-855-6