Friday, July 6, 2007

Hiding your leadership

Brent Filson has a great post on Jonathan Farrington's Leadership Turn blog titled "Hiding Your Leadership: The Jersey Joe Walcott Way of Leading". I found it coincidental that I read this link between boxing and leadership only minutes after talking to a colleague about the quiet, "after boxing" leadership exhibited by Muhammad Ali in his book, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey. Let's save any discussion on Ali and boxing for another time and focus on hidden leadership.

Filson describes the power and purpose of leadership that is hidden. The post is very insightful and I personally had two ahaa moments.

One highlight of the post was a great quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu,
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!

The second great insight was Filson's leadership Imperative where he underscores the learning and teamwork value of quiet, hidden leadership.
I will lead people in such a way that we not only accomplish the needed results but that we together help one another grow personally and professionally.

I also agreed with two cautionary notes by Filson. First he warns that the term hidden has a pejorative side. The word hidden might have a fearful or sneaky meaning. Perhaps using the label "quiet" versus "hidden" helps with this connotation. Quiet seems more discretionary, more of a choice, and not sneaky. I agree with the caution; sneaky manipulative leaders need not apply.

Secondly, we totally agree that this leadership style, whatever we call it, is never passive. It is hard work. In the end, when your team proclaims, "We did it ourselves", it is worth it.

Quiet leaders should definitely read the Leadership Turn post. It is highly recommended.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly.


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