Leadership Involves Finding A Parade – Grow Great Daily Brief #116 – December 6, 2018

“Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it.”   -John Naisbitt

You may not know who John is. In 1982 he wrote a phenomenally successful book, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our LivesHe’s 89 years old now. The book sold over 14 million copies. He was among the first futurists I followed. We weren’t quite sure what such people did, or who they were, but I was fascinated by their work. Especially his work.

Here’s the full quote:

“Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it; what is happening in America is that those parades are getting smaller and smaller – and there are many more of them.”

Lots of people are critical of that quote, but I’ve always been fond of it. That doesn’t make it accurate. It’s pithy. Maybe a bit snarky, which is likely why I like it. 😉 But sometimes I think leaders have to create their own parade, not just go find one.

I’m a Naisbitt fan though, so I openly confess my bias in his favor. Besides, the same man produced this quote…

The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn.

How can you argue with that?

Leadership. It’s an awfully big topic. I’ve read more books on that topic than probably any other subject, but I still can’t tell you I’ve been able to distill it clearly in my own mind. And until a person does that I’m not sure they’re able to convey any meaningful knowledge to others.

There are some practical things I know about leadership. Things I’ve learned through my own study, research and experience.

I know great leaders are out front because they’re willing to show others the way. 

The parade comparison is probably off-putting to some because it smacks of glory seeking. I’m not sure people understand the context or intent of the quote though. I certainly don’t claim full knowledge or context, but I’ve read enough Naisbitt to surmise he doesn’t think leaders jump in front of an existing parade. That would presuppose the parade was moving without a leader. So you may as well select yourself and jump out there in front of it. No matter, it’s not why I used to the quote – to get a debate going. I did use it to provoke us to think more soberly about leadership. Particularly our own leadership!

Great leaders see the future first, which is why they’re willing to step out front. 

Those who follow tend to be those who learn to see and believe what the leader does. They “buy in” to the leader’s vision. Those who don’t, fall out of the parade, likely looking to join to a new parade. Or start their own.

Here’s another Naisbitt quote. “The new leader is a facilitator, not an order giver.” It’s another wise quote. And one I believe in. Makes you want to read his books, huh?

If you have to be right, you put yourself in a hedged lane, but once you experience the power of not having to be right, you will feel like you are walking across open fields, the perspective wide and your feet free to take any turn.

Great leaders understand the power of the room, not being the smartest person in the room.

Google did an extensive study a couple of years ago of why high performing teams happen, or how we can create them. I’ll likely have more to say about it in the days to come, but for now, let me link it up for you so you can dive into it a bit.

Here’s a summary of the five key characteristics of enhanced teams.

1. Dependability. Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.

2. Structure and clarity. High-performing teams have clear goals and well-defined roles within the group.

3. Meaning. The work has personal significance to each member.

4. Impact. The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.

5. Psychological Safety. Where everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions. A culture where leaders create safety so employees can let down their guard.

The power is in the parade. The room. The group. The team. The collective.

Let’s take our leadership seriously knowing that we’re having an impact on others. Some we realize. Others, we have no idea. People are watching us. They’re paying attention to us.

How you enter the building every morning. How you greet or fail to greet people. How polite or impolite you are. It all matters because it’s your parade. Lead it wisely. And smartly.

Invest in learning how to do it better. Learning is the asset. Leverage your learning for your own improvement and growth in leadership.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!