Leaders Create Paths not Stone Walls


The most enduring & strongest form of leadership is the ability to constantly change yourself and change with your team.

Leaders as stone walls

In the western districts of Victoria, historical stone walls can be found.  These stone walls built by convicts and early settlers are carefully assembled piles of the volcanic rock that can be found in those soils.  These walls were built with are no foundations and no mortar. The walls stand where they stand, but they are lost when they fall down or must be moved. We lack the patience or skills to work replace them. Their strength comes only from the careful effort to lock all the pieces together under the force of gravity.

Some managers see demonstrating strength as the critical component of leadership.  These managers come across as carefully constructed and as immovable as one of these old stone walls. With strongly fixed views on the way things should be, they work hard to hold all the pieces of their world just so. They demonstrate a formidable power to resist and to hold their position. However, when they reach this point of strength, these leaders find they are no longer able to move without crumbling.

Managers like this confuse leadership with control and power. They focus on their own strength and consistency because they think it is necessary to maintain their power. Threatened by uncertainty and change they demonstrate consistency to deliver certainty to their teams. The burden of consistency falls on the manager alone.

But this view is self-fulfilling only on the downside, if you define strength by your inability to be changed, like a stone wall you will fall apart irreparably, if you need to change. There is no upside from this kind of consistency. It takes you nowhere in a world of rapid change. You will find yourself and your team irrelevant as you remain fiercely rooted to the spot.  Eventually someone needs to knocks you down to create a new path. The strength of consistency becomes fragility to external change.

Leadership as a path

Leadership is not about control, certainty and stasis. Leadership is work. Leadership is about influence and movement. More specifically it is about engaging others in change and encouraging them to work at the challenges and opportunities in front of them. Leaders create leadership in others, they don’t bear the burden alone.

You can’t lead as an immovable wall, however carefully constructed that wall may be. The work of leadership requires constant adaptation to change and that change will change the leader in the process. Leader and team evolve as they respond to new challenges and develop new approaches of working together.

The real strength of leadership is the inner purpose, self-awareness and connection to others that holds you and your team together as you all face into major change. It is that confidence, that enables leaders to empower their team to demonstrate their own potential to lead and to make change happen. 

Leaders help people to travel new and better paths. This means that they must embrace the change needed to move their teams forward.

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