Leadership and Folk Wisdom

The literature on leadership is distinctive in two respects—its volume, and its level of generality. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to glaze over when I can’t figure out if the subject being discussed is a verb or a noun.

So it’s interesting when you run across a piece on leadership that is clear in its point of view. Even moreso when it blends two normally disparate realms—say, Harvard Business Review and, for lack of a better term, folk wisdom.

The February, 2007 issue of HBR contains “Discovering Your Authentic Leadership,” by Bill George, Peter Sims, Andrew McLean and Diana Mayer. Bill George is former CEO of Medtronic, now at HBS, and author of Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. All authors are now academics.

The juxtapositions are mine, but I like to think you’ll think to like them.

 

You do not have to be born with specific characteristics or traits of a leader. Leadership emerges from your life story. HBR

We are human beings, not human doings. Folk wisdom.

 

When the 75 members of Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop, their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness. HBR

The unexamined life is not worth living. FW

People trust you when you are genuine and authentic, not a replica of someone else. HBR

Be what you is, not what you is not. FW


Knowing their authentic selves requires the courage and honesty to open up and examine their experiences. As they do so, leaders become more humane and willing to be vulnerable. HBR

Where am I? Here. What time is it? Now. FW


Discovering your authentic leadership requires a commitment to developing yourself. HBR

If you don’t know what you don’t know, you don’t know much. FW


Being authentic means maintaining a sense of self no matter where you are. HBR

No matter where you go—there you are. FW

 

Authentic leaders realize that they have to be willing to listen to feedback—especially the kind they don’t want to hear. HBR

The truth shall set you free. FW

Authentic leaders are constantly aware of the importance of staying grounded. HBR

If you’ve got one foot in yesterday, and another in tomorrow, you’re well positioned to piss on today. FW

 

Intrinsic motivations are congruent with your values and are more fulfilling than extrinsic motivations. HBR

About playing music—if it’s not play, stop. If it’s not music, stop. Don’t practice scales, play music. Don’t work at it, choose it. FW


[authentic leaders]…see themselves not as passive observers of their lives but rather as individuals who can develop self-awareness from their experiences. HBR

Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional. FW


Superior results over a sustained period of time is the ultimate mark of an authentic leader. HBR

No one writes on their tombstone, I should’ve stayed a few more hours at the office. FW


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