Big Idea by Gianpiero Petriglieri


Gianpiero Petriglieri

One of the marks of good leadership is the ability to hold the tension between pursuing a consistent direction and being able to question it.  The moment you lose hold of that tension, is the moment you stop being a leader and become a fundamentalist.  By that point, you’re no longer wearing the mantle of leadership the mantle has worn you out.  I don’t think our fundamental expectations of leaders has changed at all. Our expectation is the same as previous years; that they understand our concerns and aspirations, look after the people, places, and principles we care about, articulate and embody and realize a story of possibility.  This maybe called a vision or a strategy, but it remains a story that gives us hope for the future.  The things that have changed for the worst are the aesthetics of leadership, the meanings and images that we associate towards leaders. Leadership is very important because it drives the way we conduct ourselves. When we get to lead, who gets to lead in the first place, and who we choose to follow? 

We’re still too accustomed to an image of leadership as a position, or a possession of a thing that one owns; by the title, brilliance, skills that entitles one to set a direction for others.  Until we change the images that drive us, we come to realize that leadership is more than a position or a possession, it’s an activity and a relationship. Until we come to view leaders as custodians as much as shapers of the purpose and principles that we care about we’ll keep getting more and more leaders who are very hard to trust. There is no such thing as future leaders.  There are people who lead and people who don’t.  There are moments and circumstances in which we can lead and other moments and other circumstances in which we can’t.  Leadership is not where you need to be of a certain age and get a stamp of approval.  To be a leader one needs to have purpose, some courage, and the permission of the people who matter most, the people whom you’re inviting to follow.  A Management Acceleration program should put equal emphasis on personal and professional development.  We pay as much attention to what leaders do as we do to who leaders are. It should also put equal emphasis on the individual’s history and aspiration and on the groups and social systems in which they operate.  So, we are participants, explore and learn to manage the intersection between their own needs & expectations and needs & expectations of the groups they are in.  That is a space where leadership happens or when it fails sometimes.  Finally, the approach should aim not just to develop individual leaders but to develop what we call leadership communities as well, because that ultimately is what leadership is. It is working with others, every day, to make your organization and your community more like the one you like to live in.

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