There are two faces of leadership.
One face looks forward – because leadership is about going somewhere.
That face of leadership focuses on questions like:
1. Where are we going?
2. Why? What is the purpose?
3. How will we get there? What are our key strategies?
4. What will guide our journey? What values will guide behavior and decision-making?
The other face of leadership looks back at who’s following – at building organizational capacity and ensuring people have what they need to move forward easily.
That face of leadership focuses on questions like:
1. What skills do people need and how can we support development?
2. What resources do people need? (e.g. budget, time, information, supplies) and how can we provide them?
3. How do we ensure aligned process and systems that move us forward instead of derailing our efforts?
Both faces are equally important.
Too many leaders are out of balance – focusing primarily on the future or primarily on their organization. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you lead? If your followers aren’t able to follow, who are you leading?
You need to look in both directions at the same time. Leadership is not sequential. It doesn’t work to simply identify direction and then focus solely on execution. Clarity of direction comes over time. And execution needs to be in the context of the ongoing clarification of vision.
Your character is the body of your leadership.
Your character is the embodiment of who you are, and both faces of leadership are held by it. Influential character is built on a foundation of integrity.
People follow leaders by choice. Without trust and respect, at best you will get compliance.
The arms and legs of leadership are the people on your team.
There is no movement without your people. Remember the Afghan proverb:
If you think you’re leading and no one is following, then you’re only taking a walk.
Leadership requires other people. If you can do it alone, you don’t need to lead. Just go do it.
The smartest leadership action you can take is to involve your team in answering the questions facing both sides of leadership.
It’s not possible to answer these questions by yourself. The picture is too big to see it all. Too much is unknown.
You will get better answers by involving others.
And you’ll move forward more smoothly because those involved will have a greater understanding of the vision and how to get there, and they will feel a deeper sense of ownership and responsibility for success.
Wonderful message, Jesse. You’ve highlighted one of the most important balancing acts in the Art of Business. Thank you!
Thanks for emphasizing the importance of this balancing act, Bill. So glad you appreciated my post.
Great perspective! I like the ‘two-faces’ analogy. The ability of a leader to reflect on the past and bring lessons forward is an excellent point. We often spend little time understanding both our successes and failures and using that knowledge to plan how to achieve the vision for the future.
Thanks, Chris. We’re so used thinking in terms of “either/or,” it takes a concerted effort to focus on “both/and.”
Great post Jesse. It is always a balancing act, and you are better off when balancing the right things. I like that even though the first face you mention looks at the future, people are a big part of it. “What will guide our journey? What values will guide behavior and decision-making?”. If this is overlooked, there is no long game, only short term quick wins that don’t ‘build to last’.
Thanks for highlighting this point, Thabo. One face is toward the future, and the other face is on organizational capability – both faces involve people, which is why they need to included in answering the questions.
Well done in continuing to stimulate the leadership debate and long may it continue; as we know it surely will. From my perspective I actually see that even though we are looking back…we are reaching back to influence the future; so actually looking forward if you know what I mean. MYCASKI dispatches YESTERDAY to the bin but I must agree I do encourage looking back as lessons learned. In context MYCASKI aims to remind us not to dwell in the past but to focus on and visualise the future.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Raymond and deepening the conversation.
I could not agree more and thank you very much for this contribution to the true leadership realm. Maybe not the main focus of the article, but I loved ‘Without trust and respect, at best you will get compliance’. So true!
I will use this analogy of the two faces often and will reference it in my posts as applicable!
Thank you, Luisa. The focus is the two faces, but I couldn’t talk about them without also talking about who you are as a leader and the importance of involvement because they are so inter-related. Glad you appreciated it.
Simple & Excellent analogy Jesse. It is a great reminder to be well balanced. Good work.
Thank you, Kannan. So glad you found the analogy helpful. Understanding and balancing the polarity is essential for successful leadership.
It is like driving a car. You focus on what is coming and where you are going through the windscreen data but also on the rear view mirrors to evaluate where the organisation has been and whether it is leaving a trail of bad smoke suggesting that something ain’t right. As you know, too many organisations seem to miss what is right in front of them and equally many more miss the mountains of smoke they are leaving behind.
Great analogy, Minesh. I’ve also noticed that sometimes they are looking into the distance at the mountains ahead of them, but don’t see what’s right in front of them – or the opposite occurs where they are so busy looking at what’s right in front of them, they don’t look to see where the road is going. In either case, if they’re not also looking behind at the followers, they may discover they don’t have many real followers. At least that’s what the studies of engagement are showing us.
Thanks for the thoughts. At the same time, a good leader is one who focuses on all the issues, and keep his control and command. It is a 360 turning continuously to be executed, while keeping the peripheries and peripherals attracted to the centre, ie YOU.
Thanks for adding to the conversation!