Recently, I was struck by the notion that anyone who aspires to lead others should have to formally articulate their leadership beliefs in order to ensure clarity and conviction. Often we anoint individuals to leadership positions without any of us, including the leader, fully understanding what aims will guide their leadership actions.
I was struck by the impact of conviction many years ago when I watched the iconic baseball movie Bull Durham. When the character Crash Davis passionately divulged his mantra to Annie, I knew that any aspiring leader should be required to emphatically state their leadership creed in this way.
Crash stated most convincingly: “I believe in the sweet spot, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve. I believe in the soul, the hanging curveball, high fibre … good scotch … that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent overrated crap, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. Good night.”
Have you ever had the good fortune of listening to a ‘would-be’ leader share, with Crash’s conviction, what they believe is their leadership framework? Typically, you’ll hear plenty from them about their ‘what’s and their how’s.’ Utterings that show their views on what’s wrong with the present. What’s going to change and how they’re going to do this. Noticeably missing in their rehearsed rhetoric is anything about their ‘why’s’ or, better yet, how they may have found their ‘why,’ or their leadership purpose.
It would be better inform the team’s decision-making if we had an inkling of where the aspirational leader stood on even a few of the very important and pressing leadership challenges they will likely face. For example, suppose you were to ask an up and coming leader what they believe about recruiting and hiring?
If they were to say: “I believe smart leaders know to only hire smart people, because reckless people cause you most of your problems. In fact, I believe you recruit your own problems.”
Then what if you were to ask what they believe about the development of a highly effective leadership team?
Suppose they said: “I believe for my team to be exceptional, everyone in your organization has to be consistently at their best. I believe team members need to embrace risk, question everything, be pathologically stubborn. They need to box ears and wipe noses when needed. They need to be irrationally optimistic and have the courage to stand apart when the situation calls for it.”
And then, you followed up by asking what they believe about people treatment? Results? Recognition?
What if they replied: “I believe smart leaders do not treat everyone the same. I believe in consistency. I believe in treating everyone differently. I believe, and value, results over appearance. I believe it’s important to be good, not pretty. I believe that healthy people – both physically and emotionally – are the most productive and this should be nurtured for everyone.”
Then you asked, what do you believe gets in the way of, or inhibits the high performance of individuals and teams?
What if they replied: “I believe fatigue makes cowards of us all. I believe when you’re tired you make mistakes and don’t do the right thing. I believe your will to win all of sudden wavers when fatigue sets in. I believe self-interest is an organizational killer. I believe you cannot over-analyze in this age of acceleration. I believe you should dream big and build simple. I believe presumptiveness, arrogance, and fear tears teams apart from the inside out. I believe there is no place for a lack of knowledge in our digitized world, and I believe excessive reflection can be nothing but an excuse for inactivity.”
In the end, as opposed to making educated guesses about leadership potential, I believe I’m inclined to search, select, and ‘ride the range’ with a leader, who has convinced me that their belief system was aligned with our organization’s values and purpose. A leader like Crash Davis portrayed in the movie, who attempted to mentor players on their way to the major leagues.
ABOUT DR. TOM THOMPSON
Dr. Tom Thompson’s unyielding clarity of vision for governance and policy has extended his influence worldwide. He is recognized as one of Canada’s leading authorities in strategic innovation, and his unique fusion of award-winning leadership and transformative knowledge has ignited renewal for enterprises around the world. The author of ‘Governance as Stewardship’, Tom has presented in over 25 countries. He is a recipient of the Gold Medal Award of Excellence from the World Federation of Colleges & Technical Institutes for his governance expertise.
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