It’s been a great week discussing leadership with participants at our Foundation Course in Leadership Coaching – a diverse mix of people from small businesses, the NHS and leadership development organisations.
What I find important is to remember that it’s people who create leadership, rather than organisations, which is why coaching is such a personal process. Sure it can be a ‘one-to-many’ activity, where groups of people work with a coach to achieve a common goal, but it’s always personal: it’s about making human connections and building leadership from those connections, not the performance targets or statistics.
I was reminded this evening that even when people achieve high office, such as getting onto a Board of Directors, it’s not the position that’s important, it’s having a voice on that board: being heard, being influential and making a difference in the situation in which leaders find themselves in. This is what people call ‘situational leadership’ – apparently in the military it’s known as ‘point leadership’ – the ability to step up and lead from wherever you are.
Leadership is also about getting across one key message: “there’s a better way”. If the way we’re currently doing something is ok, why change? People with leadership qualities see the better way, they gather up their courage to speak out and gain allies when they put their ideas across.
My husband Bob had a great opportunity to demonstrate situational leadership on the national news this evening. We were thrilled when we bought an 18th century house and had the opportunity to mix 21st century solar panels and green technologies with traditional building materials. Our roof has a marvellous pattern in tiles, lovingly restored by the builders. On the back of the house is a set of glistening, photo-voltaic cells, which look like large black mirror tiles, generating between a third and a half of our daily energy needs.
We were called to participate in the debate on the BBC, on the Government’s plans to announce the ‘feed-in’ tariffs, which pay small-scale generators like us for the contribution we make back to the national grid. Bob has enjoyed working with our suppliers, Solar Century http://www.solarcentury.co.uk/, partly because we share their vision to have solar systems on the roof of every building in the UK. Of course this will need to be backed up by other micro-renewables, and the aim is to create clean power and achieve deep cuts in carbon emissions.
So Bob showed leadership by having the courage to be interviewed live by BBC News 24, from a studio in Birmingham and Solar Century, the organisation, show leadership in pioneering this technology. Of course, it’s not an organisation, it’s people like Founder Jeremy Leggett , who established Solarcentury to address the threat of climate change, who really make the difference. Leaders inspire their teams to succeed, and they communicate a vision of what they want to achieve. We may admire the brands created by successful companies, but it’s the people behind them who matter.
So here’s my manifesto for leadership: it’s about people who see that there’s a better way, they step up and they speak out, gaining allies as they do so. In today’s environment – economic and ecological – we can’t keep doing what we’ve always done before; we need people to show us ‘the better way’.