Brene Brown’s work on leadership and vulnerability have had a tremendous impact on many of today’s leaders. In her work, she defines leadership as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” I’m grateful for how she intentionally defines leadership because I believe that’s what leadership should look like.
However, that is often not the case. There are plenty of people in the world who still view leadership as a position of power, regardless of whether or not anyone is actually following the “leader.” Unfortunately there are also a lot of vocal people in the world who spend their time complaining and spreading negativity, without the knowledge or experience to back them up and with plenty of followers.
Then there are leaders who fit into Brown’s definition. They may not be in a position that affords them power, yet they are clearly leaders because of how others respond to them. Some may have authority and positive intentions, but feel so constrained by company demands and expectations that their investment in people suffers. I believe this is where the critical mass lies–struggling to lead in a way that aligns with their values because they are bombarded by competing voices, unclear priorities, and unreasonable demands.
So what can you do if you find yourself in this situation? First, consider what the people you lead need in order to be successful. The bottom line is your organization’s success depends on their ability to do the work. Next, consider whose lead you are following. Sometimes we need to pause before we can recognize which voices are leading us astray. Then, turn the volume down where needed. While we may be bound to listen to some people because of the power they have over us or our personal ties with them, we still can make a choice of what we let in and what we don’t. Easier said than done…and also worth the effort.