Number 35 – Leadership
If there’s one thing that this pandemic and its ongoing fallout has highlighted to me, it is the importance of honest and open leadership. Speaking from a British perspective, the selfishness of our leaders, looking out for their own interests before others, has been quite horrifying to watch.
When you are put into a position of leadership you have a responsibility to serve those who put you there. This is very evidently the case in politics, where we talk of public service, but it is equally the case in business or indeed any situation where a person or group of people are given the power to make decisions on behalf of others. In this sense, you are less a leader and more a servant. Rather than serving your own interests, you are serving the interests of those who are dependent on you.
Where a leader leads though is in attitude and behaviour. When leaders look out for themselves and focus on numbers over people, their followers do the same. This has been incredibly evident during the Coronavirus crisis. Our leaders have focussed on saving their own skins and have, as a result, precipitated an attitude of ‘every man for themselves’. Essentially, the leaders aren’t looking out for us, so we’ll have to instead. Suddenly, any chance of a collective effort is wiped out, as each person looks out solely for the interests of themselves and those closest to them. This comes from poor leadership.
If, on the flip side, a leader acts with humility and openness, sacrificing their own interests for the good of others, those they lead will follow. We will create a community of mutual support and care, where we are all looking out for each other and we are prepared to endure a little suffering because we know it will be repaid down the line. This comes from good leadership.
On a smaller level, we experience this all the time. We talk about cultures within organisations – these almost always trickle down from senior leadership. Equally, go into any classroom in the country and the culture of that room will reflect the example of the teacher, who in turn will reflect the attitudes of the headteacher. I notice it in my work in theatre. As a freelancer, I get to experience lots of different theatres, buildings and rooms. I cannot think of a single example where the atmosphere and culture did not reflect the personality and style of leadership of the Artistic Director of that space.
For the moment, there is little we can do ourselves to change those who lead our country. They have been democratically elected after all. All we can do is continue to look out for those around us in spite of the example we are being set and continue to challenge poor leadership. But for those of us that are leaders in our own small way, it is important to remember that your attitudes, behaviours and actions have huge implications for all those who you lead. You are responsible for the culture of your team and your organisation. You have the power to make someone’s work and life more enjoyable and fulfilling. Remember you are there to serve as well as lead.