KEY 12 LEADERSHIP Thought before action

‘If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.’

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

We seem to be obsessed with leadership. Leadership programs abound, and if you have a few spare minutes to catch up on some reading, as of April 2015 listed 132 976 books on the subject, up from 107 326 when I looked at about the same time in 2014.

What is leadership? It is something we observe in others and sometimes in ourselves. We find security in following the vision of a leader who we perceive has our best interests at heart.

Leadership programs have traditionally focused on goal directives, technology and expertise. But the new, emerging leadership is people focused, because it is people who drive business performance and success through common values, beliefs and desires. Self-directed leadership is about understanding what motivates and drives us. It provides meaning for what we do, so we can focus on what is required and get on with it. As Ken Blanchard says, ‘Real leadership happens when you are not there’.

‘What makes a good leader?’ is the question most frequently asked, along with ‘What do we need to ensure leaders develop the skillsets needed to provide effective leadership?’

Findings from social cognitive neuroscience can help answer these questions by showing the what, and the how appropriate to the modern workplace.

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