Book of the week is The Leader Who Had No Title.
I’ve heard about this book many times and now finally got my hands on it; it’s leadership wisdom but told as a story of a young man who has returned from war back to US and is living a life where he has settled for just going about his daily business, yet being deeply unhappy.
Through different characters that he meets, he is introduced to the concept of Leading Without a Title, how leadership is not about positions per se but should be a mindset where we do small things everyday and do and be the best we can.
What I keep finding fascinating is that many of the ideas that I have come across in the leadership and management literature are explained in this book in a way that are applicable and “graspable” for anyone who wants to make a difference in how they think, behave and live.
The core ideas of leadership are captured in the word IMAGE, which I will break down further here as each letter obviously signifies a concept.
Building and understanding your IMAGE
Innovation here means refusing to keep doing the same things over and over again that once helped you or led you to be successful at something.
Granted, some habits and patterns are worth keeping if they keep being helpful but innovation is about embracing new ideas, trying new methods, and most importantly not settling for comfort.
As one of the key characters in the book says: “Choose innovation over stagnation” (p. 64) and “Without innovation, life is death. And only the brave will survive these days” (p. 62).
This relates to the ever increasing competition but also pressure to keep succeeding where people and companies choose current business models because they have “always worked” and become complacent in their success or habits.
Truly grasping I by the horns then is about calculated risk taking and questioning fundamental assumptions about why we do, what we do and how we do it in a search for something that gets us ticking faster and is meaningful.
But we are also challenged to think big yet start small… that innovation often unfolds overtime by taking consistent small steps in a new direction where the steps have a ripple effect and overtime lead to a big change.
Mastery is about focusing on being the best at what you do, every day, no matter what others say about you or your work.
Mastery gets us committed to best quality of work, but also enables us to embrace the FMOB= the First, the Most, the Only, and the Best.
This means setting your goals and standards higher and expecting more from yourself.
Instead of making a list of easy goals that you know you are going to nail down anyway, think of goals that gets you super excited but that you know are harder to reach, and work your way up.
When we hit our goals, it makes us feeling like we matter, that we know what we are doing, and that’s why most people settle for small goals and don’t push themselves harder… and don’t achieve mastery.
But mastery is very much related also the beliefs we hold about our own capabilities and abilities: what we believe we are, can and cannot be:
Yet, “beliefs are nothing more than thoughts we have repeated over and over again until we’ve made them into personal truths” (p. 68).
True mastery then begins with us understanding what our core beliefs are about ourselves, and working then hard to change those thought patterns that are not helpful.
Best leaders are also authentic in who they are, what their talents are, and are committed to excellence in pursuing their vision:
“your ability to have an impact and make a contribution comes more from who you are as a person than from the authority you receive by your placement on some org chart” (p. 75).
Often we think that we can separate ourselves at work and ourselves everywhere else but true leadership is who you are and how you behave on daily basis, no matter what the context is.
You cannot be a great leader if you treat your family well but show contempt towards your staff or vice versa.
Our actions speak louder than words, as we all know, and therefore living up to who you are and your potential should come across wherever you go.
Great leaders indeed have learned that “ego” is what everyone else wants and needs you to be, a form of control to satisfy social cravings that you fit in and are appreciated.
But checking in the ego at the door when you leave for work takes more courage.
It’s a mindset of not being fixated just on promotions but actually obsessing about the quality of the authentic work that you are capable of.
G= Guts and E= Ethics
Being a leader takes guts because you are willing to chase ideas and to stand out:
“To have the guts to see opportunities where others see challenges and to envision things becoming a whole lot better while others grow complacent is to become a visionary” (p. 80).
Change and growing are hard and many are more willing to not to rock the boat.
Leadership will always attract criticism and again, most of us would rather not be criticised in the way that we do things.
“your faith in the difference you can make and your belief in the leader that you can become has to outweigh your fear” (p. 80).
It takes also guts to remain ethical especially in a world where many cut corners in order to get ahead and try to remain competitive.
But being ethical is about doing the right thing and caring about the process as well, not just the outcome.
Principles as guideposts for better things
As the book clearly demonstrates, there are a range of principles out there for better leadership, and you can become insanely passionate about all of them.
Yet, if we do nothing, if we change nothing fundamental in our lives and have nice ideas in theory, whatever “success” will not come knocking.
It is the daily grind, the actions on a continuing basis, that make or break what “success” can even look like.
All of these principles make sense when you hear them, yet it is the process of implementing these into our daily lives that still often remains the biggest challenge.
This is all eerily familiar to a project I am currently undertaking that looks at the kinds of principles we have developed about climate adaptation, how it’s supposed to work, which factors are the key for successful implementation.
Still, all of those actions matter that we undertake to adapt even if we do not have the perfect knowledge of future climate.
Actions, strategies, and investments in how we adapt to a changing climate will create ripple effects over time that have the potential to create stronger, better adapted communities, families and regions.
Just because we do not see immediate results does not mean the journey is not worth undertaking.
If we are willing to accept this when it comes to leadership and success tips, we can surely accept it holds true also for climate adaptation.