Leadership is an action not a position

Post date: 17-Sep-2010 20:56:52

This is a perspective on leadership that I have held for some time and it has never been so apparent than in a week when the “Leader” of this country presented himself in an official capacity in a condition that he himself describes as “wasn’t my best performance”.

The issue here really isn’t whether he was drunk, hungover, tired or simply not bothered to perform at his best, the issue is that the job of a Leader is to Lead – by example, by inspiration, by setting out a clear Vision for the future and inspiring belief in all followers (be they staff, family or nation) that they can contribute to achieving this Vision and sharing in its success.

In the midst of more than ten minutes of truly torpid radio, Brian Cowen did say something I would agree with; “Defeatism will not get us out of this situation”. What I didn’t hear was a viable alternative which would be a clear, compelling, believable vision that we could get on board with.

“It wasn’t my best performance” – that I also agree with, and the fact that it came with a half-hearted apology has been greeted by some as valuable, but I am reminded of the quote from David D’Alessandro “It’s always show time”. If that’s a critical axiom for career leaders to live by, it sure as hell should apply to the Taoiseach of this small but great nation. Brian Tracy, whom I also find both inspiring and practical, has a similar axiom “everything counts”. Everything you do is either furthering your core purpose in life or it’s wasting precious time. This week it felt like the person whose actions are arguably most important for the success of our country was wasting his, ours and everybody’s time.

I’ve also been listening to Tom Peter’s “Little Big Things” recently and have copied one of his mantra’s everywhere I might see it regularly: “If not Excellence, what? If not Excellence now, when?”. In terms of genuine leadership, I think that kind of sums it up.

If it’s always show time, if everything counts and if we aspire to Excellence Now then all of us have a responsibility to embrace our personal Leadership roles – in our families, our communities, our companies and our country – and to lead – by example, by inspiration and by setting out a clear and compelling Vision of that Excellence. Leadership is an action and those elected or appointed to positions that have “Leader” in their title better demonstrate that action or forgo the title.