Years ago I was introduced to the work of Lee Thayer. He has written multiple books on leadership and about “being” a leader, in particular about the concepts of Being, Doing and Having, as they relate to leadership. The reason I bring this up is that as I look at CEOs, most are very good at “doing” leadership and “having” the trappings of the role. However, most are terrible at spending time “being” a leader.
I know that statement can be interpreted in various ways, but to me it means who you are being as a leader. Who shows up when you put on the hat? A dictatorial leader? A benevolent one? Do you show up? Being a leader is not about behaving or performing in a certain way. It’s about being the authentic “you” that shows up every single day of the year. So many of us have believed that to be a leader is to fill a role, a character, or a notion of what that means, without really understanding what it means.
If you show up, and people follow, you are being a leader. What kind of a leader is up to you. This is where knowing yourself, your values, and your vision come into play. Being a leader is not about putting on a suit of clothes for a role. It’s about “being” whoever you already are. If you have a strong purpose, you will show up as a leader. If your values are apparent and consistent you will show up as a leader.
Leadership is not simply authority, or about telling people what to do, (although you will likely have to do that). Leadership is not about your ego, although often it’s hard to quiet it down. Being a leader is about asking questions and finding the solutions that show up when you provide a space for dialogue. It’s about creating a safe place for people to learn and grow, and make mistakes. Being a leader is about living your values so that others may live theirs.
One CEO I work with was so busy “doing” he forgot to ever ask what people thought and realized the entire team had lost confidence in him over time. It was a frightening moment for him as he thought he was doing so well as a leader. So he decided it was time to “be” a leader. He got everyone around the table and asked for a frank conversation about what was not working at the company. At first, the team remained quiet. He then admitted to what he knew were some of his missteps and the conversation opened up from there. He gained some insight, but mostly, he showed up as being authentic and the shift began.
What if, just for today, you tried being more of a leader instead of “doing” leadership? See how it feels and what reactions you get from your team.