I am becoming more convinced that 'lead...

First published 24th January 2012

I am becoming more convinced that 'leadership' is the combination of 3 things: a disatisfaction with the 'status quo' (either seeing what is wrong with today or what could be better or just 'what needs to be done') plus some idea of how to fix it / improve it plus the courage to do it.

Everything else is about developing the skills to be able to deliver change and the identification of the values and beliefs which create the framework for action. A lot of books are written about these latter two things (and they are really important to get right) but without those 3 essential starting conditions, it doesn't go anywhere.

The good thing about this simple model of leadership is that it applies to very simple personal situations as well as large corporate leadership.

A great example of the former was on the TV on Sunday evening: Miranda Hart as 'Chummy' delivering a breech baby in 'Call the Midwife'. (I probably need to say now that this may be a 'leadership training video' which is only suitable for women...I understand that many men are struggling to watch this programme without feeling mildly nauseous).

Chummy is a somewhat clumsy, new midwide who arrives to find that her first solo delivery is a difficult breech birth, something she's seen done once but has never done herself. Having identified what the problem is, what does she do?

1. She steps out of the room for a moment and she prays.She knows she can't do this in her own strength and we see her gather strength from God.

2. She arranges Plan B, trusting a young lad who we know has been a bit of a pest to her in the earlier scenes to go and ring the more experienced midwife to come and help. We see later how showing this trust in the young lad creates a powerful bond between them, building him up.

3. She returns to the mother calm and outwardly confident that she knows what she is doing. But she also makes it clear that this is a team effort between her and the mother. Everything is shared, every step along the way explained clearly and simply.

4. When the mother says "I can't'' to changing position on the bed, Chummy immediately empathises but insists 'this is how it has to be done.' Lovingly yet authoritatively, she sets out what must happen next.

5. Towards the end of the birth, the doctor and the experienced midwife arrive. Having created a 'safe space' in which she and the mother are working together on this most dangerous part of the procedure, Chummy insists that they stay quiet and out of the way so she can finish the job. Standing up to authority to protect those who have a lot invested in the process already underway can be a key aspect of leadership.

Some might argue that this analysis is a bit simplistic as a training exercise in leadership but I found it really helpful in thinking through what I believe to be important in delivering any change initiative. We can see good (and bad) leadership modelled for us wherever we look if we choose to spend a moment in reflection.

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