Where does leadership start?

Understanding core values

The best course on leadership that I had in my life so far was from David H. Langstaff and Declan Murphy, executive MBA students of EDHEC Business School, 2016 in Paris.

David, earned his MBA at Harvard University, and Declan, has his MBA from Wharton School. Being passionate business and community leaders, they discussed with us in the round-table dialogue what makes a leadership effective. In fact, it was more than a discussion between professors and students – it was a walk on the road of our hearts. On this road, we did not perform the typical analysis of business text or cases. Reflecting on works from philosophy, literature, art in order to realize core similarities and differences in human values. We read excerpts from Mencius and Aristotle, Milton Friedman and Jean Monnet, Georg Orwell and Martin Luther King – just to name a few. Asking ourselves about human nature, purpose and values. We  questioned characteristics and moral responsibility of leadership. Discussed the most efficient ways and the challenges in their execution.

But to what extent have philosophy, arts and literature to do with practical guidelines for everyday leadership?

Leadership means finding a new direction. Enlightened and effective leadership is enabled through ability to articulate a clear sense of purpose to the whole diversity of employees in the today agile and complex organizational environment and to transcend the given differences to the clear and shared direction. The last is the ultimate challenge for the most managers. To handle this, it is of utmost importance to understand that the reason why people view the world, their jobs, their colleagues and themselves differently is initially caused by the differences in their core values. Art has as its overall goal an objectification of the core human values contributing to understanding why leadership is so difficult – and so necessary.

Having leaders as having thinkers

So – what can we learn from this and how to become a better leader 2019? To answer this global question in one passage, I may refer to one of the authors, whose works we discussed in David’s and Declan’s course – William Deresiewicz and his essay “Solitude and Leadership” (2010). Deresiewicz, American author, essayist and literary critic, stated that there is a crisis of leadership in the U.S.A.. Because of people “who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them”, “who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place”, “who have been trained to be incredible good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise”.

Deresiewicz described this phenomenon of not having leaders as not having thinkers, as absence of people who can think for themselves. Hereby, “thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information… Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. You simply cannot do that in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching sometimes on YouTube”.

Exemplary leadership always appeals to the core values and moral responsibility. Understanding, living in line and achievement of own values leads to the fulfillment and happiness. Therefore, 2019 take care of your mind and soul,

  • Stop all distractions
  • Think for yourself and
  • Never stop questioning.

picture credits: Alex Howell via unsplash.com

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