First, the vocab basics, to be clear about our MWA context:
LEADER – a person, not a title
LEADING – a verb, the actions taken by that person who aspires to lead
LEADERSHIP – the effective result, or overall persuasion of consistency in intentional leading [see Ka lā hiki ola and Leadership: A Sense of Hope.]
There is a ton written about leadership, and most of what can be found online as free content is pretty bad. I’ve gotten to the point where I ignore all book titles and online link-teasers (with ‘leadership’ not more than a keyword for search engines), and will only bother reading the essays penned by writers I already know and admire, or because of someone’s strong recommendation for me.
This was one of those recommendations: “How and Why to Be a Leader (Not a Wannabe)” by Umair Haque for the Harvard Business Review.
I do like this basic premise in the essay: Haque speaks to our WHY in Managing with Aloha — to ALOHA.
Leaders lead us not to a place — but to a different kind of destination: to our better, truer selves. It is an act of love in the face of an uncertain world.
Perhaps, then, that’s why there’s so little leadership around: because we’re afraid to even say the word love — let alone to feel it, weigh it, measure it, allow it, admit it, believe it, and so be transformed by it.
… and The How.
He continues with six suggestions that he believes can change our acts of LEADING, if we’re up for the challenge, describing them as recurring choices we’ll have:
- Obey — or revolt?
- Conform — or rebel?
- Value — or values?
- Vision — or truth?
- Archery — or architecture?
- love — or Love.
I too, recommend you read the article in full. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.
Haque wrote his essay as a call to action (he previously framed the problem he wants to solve here: The Great Dereliction.)
I share it with you mostly because I like that he thought so deeply about the subject, and came to an actionable game plan — he is next-stepping. What he suggests focuses squarely on LEADING so your actions will turn you into the LEADER you want to be, and are convicted about being: You will act as you believe will be PONO for you.
At their essence, both MANAGING and LEADING are about constantly making situational choices. Opportunities will present themselves on a daily basis.
What we want to do — what we MUST do — is make each and every choice based on our values: Ethos: Be true to your Values.
I love what Haque ends with:
It’s often said that leaders “inspire”. But that’s only half the story. Leaders inspire us because they bring out the best in us. They evoke in us our fuller, better, truer, nobler selves. And that is why we love them — not merely because they paint portraits of a better lives, but because they impel us to be the creators of our own.
I give you the same encouragement: I don’t think you can be a LEADER until you are, as Haque phrases it, ‘the creator of your own better life.’ This is what we call the value of ‘IMI OLA.
But you can’t just say what you aspire to, and stop there. Your making-it-happen actions have to create the LEADER in you.
Do for you, then do for others, and you will be managing your life with ALOHA.
One of the questions I frequently get, is why I named my business Say Leadership Coaching instead of Say Management Coaching: I admit to being more manager than leader, and elevating management is such a large part of all we do.
Being a better leader has always been my goal, and at that moment of time when SLC was founded (2004), I’d felt this “I’m now managing with Aloha” sense of arrival as a currently-working sensibility to what I already did — it was a managing victory for me, and leading better had to be next. The SLC laboratory of experimentation, future partnerships, and new learning had to aspire to leadership, because it was the challenge ahead of us. As foundation, SLC’s baseline assumption was that great management must consistently be our line drawn in the sand; our Calling to Management would always be non-negotiable. The SLC name therefore, was a brass ring I could keep my sights on, never forgetting my next vision, and never neglecting to reach for it.
Will I ever write a book called Leading with Aloha is often the next question in the conversation. Perhaps, as in ‘never say never,’ but likely not, because in my complete framing of that phrase I’d require a larger organizational forum than exists in my desired business model for SLC; I’d want a return to ‘big business’ and the ability to foster that leadership pipeline Noel M. Tichy referred to as The Leadership Engine. Meanwhile, I’ll often draft my thoughts about leadership here, on this blog, and I consider my laboratory of experimentation to still be an in-progress exploration. That same ‘sense of arrival’ may still elude me, but I’ve learned to be more patient about it, enjoying the learning, and applying it in other ways.
As is the point of this post: Define what you are aiming for, then do it.