Leadership Is The Most Important Currency

Tina Turner was right.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine sent me an article about one of my favorite subjects: leadership.

 

There are a lot of articles and books about leadership and to be honest a great many of them miss the mark, but this particular article was one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject and I feel the need to tell you about it especially as voters go to the polls in Delray and Boca on March 13.

 

Basically, the author argues that there are two styles of leadership: a “hero” and a “host.”

 

The hero leader takes everything on by herself; he or she assumes all responsibilities and wants to be seen as the savior; the hero per se of the story.

 

Inevitably, hero leaders fail, because nobody– regardless of talent, intellect and energy level–can do it all. No man or woman, as the saying goes is an island.

 

Once the hero slips, we are quick to abandon them as yet another in a long line of people who failed to live up to their promises.

 

So what happens? Well, invariably we look for a new and better hero and the cycle continues building cynicism every step of the way.

 

We have all seen the hero phenomenon play out in our lives, whether it’s a hot shot CEO who is going to come in and turn it all around or a candidate who is going to get under the hood and by sheer force of will fix what everybody else has been unable to mend.

 

It’s the story of American politics at every level of government.

 

Which is why so many of us are disgusted right around this time of year as we cope with a barrage of expensive and slick campaign ads telling us how (fill in the blank) is going to fight for the people and fix everything from crime and taxes to schools and  traffic.

 

But the crop of heroes will fail. It’s inevitable.

 

So are we relegated to an endless cycle of failure, frustration and phonies? Or is there a better way?

Fortunately, there is a better and much more effective leadership style—that of the host, not the hero.

 

The host is a collaborator, a motivator, a convener and an alchemist who brings people and resources together to tackle problems, meet challenges and seize opportunities.

 

He or she doesn’t try to do it alone and does not pretend to have all the answers.

 

Rather, they believe in the wisdom of the crowd and in hosting conversations and problem solving exercises that really and truly move the needle.

 

I happen to think this is the best leadership approach possible. Not only does it involve people, but it challenges them to think and work together. And when they do come up with solutions , there is automatic buy-in because they were part of the process. They were engaged, someone bothered to ask them what they thought and trusted in their abilities to figure things out.

 

Can this work on a local level?

Absolutely, Delray Beach is a prime example of a community that re-invented itself through visioning, and extensive and ongoing community engagement beginning with the Atlantic Avenue Task Force in the mid-80s, Visions 2000 in the late 80s and 90s and through the Citizen’s Downtown Master Planning Process in the 2000s. And then we stopped.

 

We get in trouble when we veer away from that formula either through failing to engage residents or having elected officials think they are heroes who can do it all, and let us know about it later.

 

Can it work on the national level?

Well, that’s a trickier beast to deal with. But perhaps it could… if presidents saw themselves (and more importantly) we viewed them as above partisanship and if somehow they could lead by “hosting” rather than dictating policies. But this only works if Congress can get over its hyper-partisanship and remember they are there to do a job and get things done for Americans; a simple concept that seems to be hopelessly lost at the moment.

 

Regardless, next time you see a mayor beating his chest, or a gubernatorial candidate promising to save Florida remember the host and hero dynamic and ask yourself when the last time someone succeeded without being a host.

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