Leadership – It’s About People


Over the past weeks we have been journeying through the Canadian Army’s “Principles of Leadership”, considering what those insights might mean to leaders in non-military settings. The term “sum up” was often used by my staff college classmates to encourage a fellow student to get to the point of their presentation. So, let me “sum up” this series with two things. One may seem like a “blinding glimpse of the obvious”, the other may seem a bit too “ivory tower”. Both are vitally important.

First point. Leadership is about people. It often puzzles me how many writers on leadership seem to forget this fact in their rush to present their “secret leadership sauce” which, they assure you, will lead to success, happiness and promotion. Military planners are often admonished to “remember that the enemy gets a vote”. Similarly, I would assert that, in leadership, your subordinates get a vote, a deciding vote. For you to lead them, they must make a choice to follow you. What is it about you that would cause them to do that?

Second point. Whether you realize it or not, the way you approach leadership is rooted in your deepest beliefs about yourself and others. Stephen Covey, in his excellent book “Principle-Centered Leadership”, writes: “Principle-centered leaders are men and women of character who work…on the basis of natural principles and build those principles into the center of their lives, into the center of their relationships with others, into the center of their agreements and contracts, into their management processes and into their mission statements.” The Principles of Leadership that we have considered are not some “secret sauce”. Rather they are the expression of what a good and effective leader believes about themselves and others.

As leaders progress in responsibility, these foundational beliefs become more and more critical. Many a manager promoted to the executive ranks has found, to their chagrin, that success at that level becomes much less about their technical knowledge and much, much more about their ability to negotiate the “white water” of relationships up, down and sideways. Negotiating those in a successful, sustainable way requires a leader who knows themself and knows how to interact with people in a way congruent with that knowledge.

Getting to that place of deeper understanding can be transformational. (Personal example: one of the many valuable things that I learned from a Coach was that my inordinate need to please authority figures was not only impeding my effectiveness as a leader but limiting my potential for further advancement.)

As an Executive Coach it has been my privilege to walk with other leaders as they travel this journey. They say that they have found it challenging, terrifying, exhilarating and always worth the effort. Can I partner with you on your journey? Let’s talk about it!