Are you a Leader or do you Lead?

It is almost uniformly true that regardless of whether leadership is established through experience or learning, leaders rarely think about the foundation their leadership is actually built on. How we use power over others, how we self-justify our actions and how we compartmentalise our lives are sadly not topics that most leaders think about.

In his book Integrity Henry Cloud unpacks six essential qualities that determine success in business. He begins his discussion by pointing out that the word integrity finds its basis in the French and Latin concept of integration (completeness, wholeness). Leaders that display integrity are leaders that are integrated. Here-in lies the challenge for leaders. Most of us integrate the wrong stuff.

Cloud talks about integrating our values (the things that define who we are) not about enmeshing our functional roles. Think about the question: are you a leader or do you lead? Leadership is a function we perform. None of us should lead all the time. Good leaders, are on occasions, good followers as well, or at least have spaces in their lives where they don’t lead. So much of the rhetoric around leadership tries to convince us that we are leaders and not simply people who, in the appropriate circumstances, lead. If we get this wrong we are vulnerable to burnout, an overwhelming sense of failure on occasions and any criticism of our leadership becomes personal. The irony is that when we confuse who we are with what we do we tend to compartmentalise our values.

One of the questions I ask of clergy when they get caught out in misconduct is; ‘How did you stand up and preach each week when you were crossing so many ethical boundaries?’ The answer is always the same; ‘I learned how to compartmentalise’.

Integrity is about being the same person (integrated values) no matter what we are doing (our functional role). So why do we compartmentalise our being and enmesh our doing?

Steve Ingram