I hate the topic of leadership. I really do. There are a thousand books written about it, a million blog posts. There are courses one can take at college (I know I took some at the Masters level) and professional courses you can take through your employer.
Because of the focus on the tactics and application of leadership, we assume that leaders come from a certain stock of people, and the rest of us just have to learn how to become leaders. But leadership really isnt that much of a mystery.
Work based leadership is task based. The goal is to achieve something, and the chain of command is clearly delineated. The goal of the leader, is to keep everyone working in the same direction, towards the same goal, with an eye to completion at a set date.
For example, at Graphic.ly, we release an update to our Adobe AIR App Alpha every Friday. That means by Thursday morning, we need to have a working internal version for QA, and we need to have it through QA by Thursday afternoon. Its a simple process, and with solid task based leadership, we seem to complete it more often than not.
But what about in our personal lives?
Our personal lives are not task based. There is no clear hierarchy. Our friends, our family, our loved ones all expect a certain amount of time and attention. And for most of the people I know, life is something that is fit around and integrated into career. Career is what trumps life.
If in our careers, leadership, goals and hierarchy are so clearly defined, how do we easily transition that construct to our daily lives?
Its not quite as simple nor as straight forward as it is in our day jobs. The key, the real key to building leadership within our personal lives is to put ourselves in front of all others.
Leadership in our personal lives, unlike in the professional world, is something fluid. Time becomes something to hoard. Personal time because something we value.
Yet, we are taught to be nice. To be giving. To provide. These are all the hallmarks of a life lived well. We are taught that its better to give than receive, to provide is divine, etc.
All those lessons cause nothing but consternation and difficulty. In practice, we give up the leadership of our lives to others. Even others that we want to be part of our lives.
Its important to note that I am not advocating taking instead of giving, just that by putting ourselves first, we actually provide a clear set of engagement rules that allow us to define the interactions and allow for a bit of control and direction.
To provide leadership to friends, family and loved ones, it can only be achieved through action. We must be able to interact in ways that provide a positive outcome for all involved.
For everyone the actual steps and rules are different, but these are the ones that I currently employ:
- There is this 750words project;
- I try to take the first hour when I get home from the office to myself. I never go straight from work to an event, dinner, etc. without at least a bit of a break (even if its in my office);
- I never stay anywhere too long;
- I keep my close friend list short. Mostly because that group of people get (relatively) unfettered access, and I cant provide that to too many people;
- I try and be clear about what I want from people, and ask that they respond in kind. Its not always pleasant, but its (almost) always clear.
- I put myself before everyone. If I am being nice to someone, its because I want to be nice, not because I feel an obligation. My only obligation is to myself.
As the internet and other forms of communication and information accelerants enter our lives, its getting harder to create clear delineation between our personal and professional lives. The tactics and strategies that work in one, dont really work in the other. Leadership, needs to exist in all aspects of our lives, we just need to employ it in different ways. In the professional world, we are looking to achieve goals and complete tasks. In our private lives we are looking to obtain happiness and balance.
For those of us that are considered leaders in our professional lives (due primarily to position) have a difficult time transferring that leadership into our personal lives because of the clear shift in effective personal leadership. We need to determine our own personal tactics, or, eventually, we arent leading our lives. They are being led for us.
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