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What is leadership for you?

“Begin with the end in mind”. Most of you will recognize this sentence as one of the habits described by Stephen Covey in his best selling book “The seven habits of highly effective people” ( of which over 15 milions copies in 38 languages were sold.

It is truly a great book in which Covey describes how seven habits drive effectiveness in ourselves and others. These habits are based on what Covey calls principles. Universal laws which are timeless and discovered, not created by mankind.

Leadership based on 7 principles

This first Nevi PLP module “leadership” is interesting as it starts with this habit and the professor Marielle Heijltjes takes us through the slidedeck. There are many leadership styles but it has to start with knowing once own weaknesses and using the ability to observe and understand others. If leadership is according to Covey based on 7 principles, does it really matter that there are many different challenges? Does complexity (Scharmer 2013) exist only in the mind of the blind? Identifying our limited abilities to understand natural laws and observe initial conditions of what is arround us.

Can a leader influence the behavior and performance of others? I am not a believer in concepts like control and influence. In my belief people should be inherent motivated. Changing a person seems only to be possible if the person himself chooses to change. This topic is discussed and I recognize the locus of control on the slides based on my own experiences. Having worked as a procurement consultant in over 50 organisations these last 10 years I noticed that there are two major types of people. Type A’s which control their own destiny and type C’s which are most of the time surprised or blaming others (Information Measurement Theory, Kashiwagi 2010).

Control is an illusion

I consider myself a type A person. Control seems to be an illusion, but based on the information given during this first module of the Nevi PLP I now see how one can have influence via the characteristics of the tasks or through the context. Especially using appraisal and reward systems , e.g. For the bad: “Rewarding buyers to negotiate an increase of the payment terms to 120 days”. For the good: “Use this knowledge and have a salesperson also a target on measuring client satisfaction, instead of only revenu and profits.

The excersise of leadership orientation reveals my preference and business nature to compete. To me competition always drives performance. By observation however I understand that most people love concepts like collaboration and creation. Having a strong background in IT outsourcing I learned that these concepts are difficult to maintain when the going gets though.

So what is the best path to achieve team effectiveness and collaboration? Agility is the new buzz word, not only in IT outsourcing, also in leadership thinking. As every organisation needs to change and adapt in order to survive. Old industries are rapidly changed by new and disruptive technologies. However can we expect that an oiltanker manoevres easily? Or should we use speedboats in order to increase agility? Design thinking, co-creation (open mind, open hart, open will) and agility are great concepts as they limit the concept of management, direction and control but are risky practices as they mostly do not have the end in mind.

Management is not leadership and leadership is not management

Leadership has many definitions but always focuses on people. It can be applied to work, family and social groups. On the other hand, management focuses primarily on goals, deliverables and is mostly related to the work environment.  One quote which always stayed with me: “Management is not leadership and leadership is not management. Those who confuse these two, are most of the time managers. It all starts with “why” and “what”. For the “how” we must trust (8th habit) that the universal principles of Stephen Covey will guide us in the right direction. Leadership is a learning experience and not about right or wrong. For me it is about to accept and understand people arround me for who they are. What is leadership for you?

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