Leadership theory has evolved immensely throughout history. The “Great Man” theory said only a certain personality type could rise to power. The authoritarian leadership theory espoused power and control as secrets to success. Others argued a leader had to be in the right place at the right time (situation theory) or had to act a certain way (behavior theory). There was even an anti-leadership leadership theory that argued there is no consistent rule.
Today’s leadership theory recognizes those inconsistencies and presents a new vision. In many ways, it rolls all leadership theories into one.
Today’s leadership theory points to a process in which individuals identify and grow their God-given gifts and abilities into powerful strengths, then practice those strengths in dynamic environments where they can impact change and inspire others.
The beauty of today’s leadership theory resides in its unique complexity. There are no easy answers.
We know now that just because someone is born in the right place at the right time and has certain personality traits, it doesn’t guarantee greatness. Success is not inherent in power and control. Just look at the number of leaders with unbound power who fell from grace.
Today’s leadership theory is complicated because it calls on each individual to examine their life, to explore their gifts, to develop their talents, and to find their passion. Where one person finds greatness in books and shared knowledge, another may find it in business or art.
In fact, some may find it in the quiet, private places.
Consider the older gentleman I sat next to at church who delivered lunch throughout the week to home-bound seniors. He made them laugh and smile in an otherwise bleak day - then he shared his stories and attracted others to volunteer. He was the epitomy of leadership.
This May, I will share "Two Simple Ways to Change Your Thinking and Reap the Rewards of Magnetic Leadership" with the Western New York Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association. We’ll explore some challenging questions that will push each participant to think about their unique leadership ability and begin to build on their strengths; but it will require a “letting go” of some traditional leadership myths.
Bill George, author of True North, said it well, “To become authentic leaders, we must discard the myth that leadership means having legions of supporters following our direction as we ascend to the pinnacles of power.”
No – leadership is about finding your inner truth. It’s about drawing others toward a shared vision with tangible impact. Leadership is rarely the same from one person to the next. Leadership is as unique as our fingerprint.