Our company, Executive Leadership Skills International, www.els1.com , International is a Leadership and Organization Development, Training, and Consulting firm. We have helped over 250 clients who represent a spectrum of organizations and industries including small businesses, Fortune 100 firms, schools, and professional organizations. Our work has taken us throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
We believe that leadership is one of the most powerful of all forces impacting an organization. We approach leadership as the act and art of creating shared meaning, eliciting purposeful action, and achieving desired results. We promote leadership that shapes a culture of high-involvement — where employees participate as partners and the capacity and desire to make meaningful contributions are acknowledged and supported. With effective leadership, individuals contribute, their best ideas take form, and organizations thrive. We also recognize that leadership is needed and should be encouraged.
One of our fundamental challenges in this domain is understanding how to teach and develop leadership in individuals and organizations. We know that the many theories of leadership (and there are many!) based on preferred results of leadership will help us understand what we want. However, they cannot help us understand how to use leadership to get what we want. For example, we understand that we want to influence people to achieve desired goals, but if we define leadership as influencing others, we are left to ask, “How this is done?”
Such a question may have many answers, some of which have nothing to do with leadership. We are left, then, to derive a definition which reveals an underlying process that is at the root of influence.
We know that leadership is usually defined in terms of the application of influence or the creation of motivation or both. I think it is important to see leadership in a different context: influence and motivation are not essential features of leadership at all; rather, influence and motivation result from the making of meaning. The same may be said for goals, direction, or structure. These are not essential features of leadership; they are some of the means through which meaning can be made. It is neither influence nor goals that are essential to leadership. It is meaning.
What happens, then, when I reframe the question from “How do I influence others?” to “How do I make meaning?” We now begin to address the underlying universal process (meaning making) and not the secondary, resulting process (influencing others).
So the question remains: “How do you make meaning?”