Ep 148: Some Thoughts On Leadership As A Concept
What does it take to be a leader? In this episode, Adam Quiney shares his insights on leadership as a concept and all the other things that relate to it. He talks about the difference between being a leader in position versus embodying the way of being a leader, the style of leadership and how it affects the people around them. Adam also touches on the subject of leaders dealing with what they’re used to instead of allowing themselves to grow outside of their range. Lastly, he speaks about leadership as something you are and leadership as something you choose to be. Basically, Adam points out that people love the idea of being a leader without truly knowing what it takes to be one. He also notes that more than just being in the higher position, a true leader must know how to create new results by doing what they’ve always done, only better, faster and stronger.
Listen to the podcast here:
Some Thoughts On Leadership As A Concept
A leader is someone who envisions how the ways of doing things can be enhanced and who moves people toward that better vision. Leadership requires a lot of effort and shaping mindset to be effective. A lot of concepts on leadership are there to be pondered on. Today’s show talks about mini topics on leadership as a concept.
We’ve got a veritable smorgasbord of topics that we are going to talk about. These come up as I’m in leadership conversations with people and notice a particular thing happening. It doesn’t often feel like media enough for me to do an entire episode around so I set those aside and then once we get a bunch of them, we get one of these episodes. We will be talking about a whole bunch of different conversations. I don’t think it’s going to be a fun one, a lot of variety here. Before we dive into our first little mini topic, I want to invite you to join me on what may be the last Creating Clients Course iteration. I don’t know if it’s going to be the last or not but what I do know is this will be the third and it will be the final one this 2021.
I have done it for a year now and I’m taking a look to see, “What am I inspired to create next? Is it to continue running this course or is it to create something new? The Creating Client’s Course is a ten-week course. What we are doing is helping you pull apart the traditional sales model and then rebuild it into something that you love. The way sales traditionally are set up and run in our world is you could think of it like a pyramid where there’s all this foundational stuff and the person buying whatever you sell at the top is like that result, and because their society is so fixated on results, it’s like we turn that pyramid upside down and we drive straight to the result. “How do I create the result? I need more leads.”
We asked questions that are a function of, “Why aren’t I getting that result? What seems to be the problem?” With that test, it has you miss entirely the foundation that needs to be built. What we are doing is we are breaking down why this doesn’t work, helping you let go of that, erase the stories and paradigms you have that leave you thinking about that and getting all anxious. Building up a foundation so that you can discover the art of serving people, you can embody at a deep level, the belief and the understanding that sometimes the best way you can serve someone is to invite them to get into a paid relationship with you, whether it’s by buying a widget, buying your service or whatever. The impact, the vision, and this course promise that by the end of it, a lot of your anxiety around creating clients or selling is gone. You will discover an absolute joy and a real facility in connecting with people, developing relationships, building something from there and releasing freedom from the need to generate results.
Instead, you will have a deeper knowing that you are on the right path. From that path, results are created. It’s an amazing course. It’s truly transformational. It’s a low level of commitment intentionally as a way for people to come and partner, be in a relationship with me and work with me and get some of the benefit of this work at a low level of commitment. The cost is $1,000, the time commitment is about ten weeks. There are a couple of video calls where we coach whatever showing up and getting in your way. It’s incredible. If you would like to learn more about this course, if you think, “I don’t want to keep putting this off. I would like to be a part of this,” you can learn more about it AdamQuiney.com/clientcreation. We will endeavor to put that in the show notes.
Leadership As A Position VS Leadership As An Embodied Way Of Being
Without further ado, let’s get to some of our mini topics. The first one I’m going to talk about is leadership has a position versus leadership as an embodied way of being and how most of the world relates to leadership is often through it being a positional thing. It’s said, “It’s a role that you have. It’s a position of authority.” You will hear this, people will say, “I’m not a leader because there are only two people at work that I take care of. I’m not a leader, I’m someone living my life, doing whatever.” What’s happening is that people are precluding themselves from getting into a conversation about themselves as the leader on the basis that they have not yet got circumstances in life. The circumstances of your life or the position you hold in this example.
The ability to be a leader is bottlenecked. It’s set aside because you don’t yet have the trappings, the surroundings, the circumstances that would have you be a leader. There are two ways that this gets in people’s way. The first one is that until they have that position, they choose out of the leadership conversation because they decide it’s not for them. “He’s not talking to me. This isn’t available for me,” which ironically then stops you from creating the way of being that would then have you step into that position. It doesn’t mean it’s unattainable. What it does mean is that you slow everything down. You delay the opportunity for you.
The opportunity to be clear is to choose into the leadership conversation. The other side of this is where people have been in a position of leadership. They have been promoted, they manage a team or they do whatever and from there they decide, “I know leadership. I already know what this conversation is about. There’s nothing new here. I’ve got the goods. I know the answer.” The longer they hold a particular position, the more convinced they are that there’s nothing new down this path. What that does is, remember, we are distinguishing your position from the embodiment of a quality of being called leadership. Where that leave these? People are stuck because they believe they are certain that they know leadership and that makes them impermeable, impenetrable, they can’t let in the actual conversation for leadership, which is problematic.
The higher up you go, the longer you have been in what you believe to be a position of authority and leadership, the more likely you are to not be open to developing your leadership. What we are standing for here is that leadership is a quality of being. Further to that, your leadership has a quality of being is always going to have a new edge. I don’t care if you have worked as a leader for the last several years, since the dawn of the cosmos or for one day, there is always an edge. If you are in a conversation where someone is supporting you in your leadership, then the opportunity is to allow them to reflect that edge to you so you can step into it. There’s great safety in, “I’m not a leader yet. I know the leadership conversation. I have been doing this for several years.”
As soon as people start relying on their experience or the amount of time they have spent being a leader to defend why what they are doing is right, that’s a sure sign that they are blocked in their leadership. I want to be clear. This doesn’t mean you take everything that someone says to you for granted and that you are like, “This person told me this is the thing for my leadership. I will set aside everything I believe to be true and go towards them.” What it does mean is there’s a point at, which you have to choose the leader that’s going to develop your own leadership and then trust them beyond your own resistance. That’s leadership as a position, as opposed to leadership as an embodied way of being.
Leadership As A Way To Be VS Leadership Has The Possibility Of All Ways Of Being
Next up now that we are in the realm of being, I want to talk about leadership as a way to be versus leadership as the possibility of all ways of being. LinkedIn is a good place to do this. If you go on LinkedIn and you search for leadership, you will get so many different articles and stuff about what it means to be a leader. “Here’s what is required of a leader. Here’s the right way to be a leader.” The very popular one these days is servant leadership. This way of being servant leadership. The nature of this is that it gives us the right way to be leadership, which ultimately gives us a rule. It gives us an always-on, “Here’s the right way to be. The way to be, as leadership is kind and generous. I know the way to be.”
First of all, this provides great comfort to all of us. It gives us a way to be right if that’s the way of being that we naturally embody so I’m like, “Generosity, right on. That’s who I am already. Who I am, as a good leader?” Second, it gives us an answer. For those of us that don’t like making mistakes, looking stupid, afraid of looking foolish or making a mess, all of which are essential components of leading. For those of us that don’t like those, we have a go-to, “I’m a little caught in this moment but when I know there’s to do is to be generous so I will be generous.” We hang out in this right way of being. I want to be clear. This isn’t about generosity. I can come on with any quality of being. You can be like, “The right way to be a leader is to crack the whip.”
My dad, when I first got into this line of work, told me, “Adam, sometimes people need a swift kick up the ass.” My dad wasn’t saying is that in his world, people always need a swift kick up the ass. Sometimes it’s what he says but he wants to kick people up the ass and get them moving again. That becomes the way to be, when people are stuck, kick them up the ass. All of these provide the right way to be, leadership as a way to be. This is not what leadership is about. Leadership is the possibility of you having access to all ways of being. What that means is that as a leader, you are capable of being whatever is required by the moment. Further, you can feel into the moment and get clear on what is required and then embody that.
For the leader who insists that generosity is the only game in town and when it’s time to get like, “Let’s get leaderly,” this is where they get stuck because they go to generosity. That’s the only game. This becomes like an always-on kind of thing. There are a million different moments, different ways people can show up and get stuck. A lot of people would hear what my dad says, “You should never give people swift kick up the ass,” but sometimes that is what’s called for. Sometimes what’s called for is that you poke people with the pointy edge of the stick and you say, “You’ve got to get moving.” Sometimes you have to hold people to consequences. The point here is that the leader who can have the most impact and to move things towards the committed result they have with the most ways and efficiency is the leader who has access to the most and all ways of being and to all doing.
It naturally combines both of these two things. It allows for the leader to embody all qualities of being and to do all of what is required, rather than being hindered by the right way to do things. As soon as you have a sacred cow, which is to say, as soon as you have a right, correct way to lead the way that the leader always must be. Here’s another example, the leader always eats last. As soon as you have something like that, you are now hindered in all of those situations where eating last is not what would move things forward. This is a commonplace where people want to insist, “Adam, eating last will always help people.” I would say, “No, what people need to see modeled for them is that it’s okay sometimes to eat first?”
“All eat last and then they will go do it.” “That’s not you modeling eating first.” We have to have this capacity to do whatever is required. Ironically, this is a little bit like acting, because, in acting, people often think, “I act sad,” but that is not what that the highest trained actors are doing. The highest trained actors are working themselves out so that they can embody whatever the scene requires. They are not acting sad. They are being sad. They are allowing the expression of sadness in their body at the moment. If you have hang-ups about anger, you are not ever going to truly be able to embody your anger. You are forever going to be acting angry. On some level, this will always transmit. This is what we are doing as a leader and this was what it means for leadership to be the possibility of always being, rather than a single way to be, a couple of ways to be or 90% of the ways to be but not this 10% over here.
Styles Of Leadership And How It Gets In People’s Way
Next topic, styles of leadership and how this gets in people’s way. There’s a guaranteed way almost every leadership conversation I have ever been in goes. The way it starts is I check in with the person, “Are you sure that you want to have your leadership developed? This is confronting work and your resistance is going to show up. Are you sure?” They go, “I’m super stoked. I’m ready. I need this in my life. It’s time.” On the other side of that shortly thereafter, once we start to work on their leadership, very predictably, they will say something along the lines of, “This isn’t what I signed up for. This isn’t what I want.” It’s not. What they want is whatever their image of how their development is going to look.
Instead, what they are getting is being moved into the areas, in which they are resistant, in which they are not willing to take on their work. One of the most common places where people get into this dynamic is the insistence on what their style of leadership is. Let’s say that I had someone who was being soft and their team wasn’t producing results. I start to tell them, “You are going to need to hold them accountable. You are going to need to bring some flame to their feet.” What people typically do is insist, “That’s not my style of leadership. I have a different style of leadership.” First of all, what happening here is, to go back to our previous distinction, they are choosing or reserving the right to stay in leadership as a particular way to be, rather than being able to embody and expand their range into all possible ways of being and doing.
Not my style of leadership provides people with a convenient out. It’s like an off-ramp. Remember that leadership is about moving you out to the edges of your range and then beyond them. You are going to be resistant to that not because you are stupid, dumb or suddenly changed your mind but because that’s what keeps us stuck. That’s why leadership goes the way leadership goes. That’s what holds us there. Over time, we are moving you out to the edges and you are naturally going to be resistant. What then happens, as a result, is we get into this conversation about your style of leadership, “I don’t want to do that. That’s not my style.” The challenge here is that it’s not because your current style of leadership is the range, in which you are comfortable.
People retreat to the refuge of concepts, a style of leadership or what’s authentic to themselves because that allows them to stay inside their range and gets them off the hook of confronting the boundaries of their own range as leaders. Not my style is the perfect off-ramp. It gives us an escape hatch, a place to get out of the conversation and reserve the right to be right. It allows us to get out of having to trust this leader reflecting something to us and inviting us into something beyond our own resistance. Instead, we get to insist, “Sorry, it’s not my style.”
Next up, we’ve got an example of a particular style like something people might defend. We are going from this broad notion of not my style to a particular example where people defend their style. That would be where people insist, “My approach, distinction and belief about leadership are I don’t ever make people do things.” The way this goes is that when people say they are going to do something, make a declaration and then don’t, the leader doesn’t do anything to hold them accountable, to hold their feet to the fire, to stand for them, to create beyond their resistance. It’s important to know that any time people create a goal that is beyond the pale of their own resistance, they will naturally resist it.
They are going to find reasons not to do it. They are going to pull away from it. They are going to find reasons and things to get interested in and distracted by instead. I had a client who at the start of our conversations is she wanted to create this thing. As time went on, she started getting fascinated with how she was stuck so rather than getting into the conversation that would move her towards the results she said she wanted to create instead, she wanted to keep talking about how she was stopping herself. Conversations like, “I noticed I hold myself back around people.” That’s great but what about the thing that you said you wanted to create? How was this in the way of that? What would have you moved towards what you want to create?
This is a human way that we block ourselves, sabotage what we are up to. The follow-up to this then is that the leader confronted with this who has not expanded their own range gets into a safety stance of, “I don’t make people do anything so they can tell me what they want and I will coach them around it. If they don’t keep bringing it, I’m not going to check-in.” This sounds cool and it’s incredibly appealing because then you are not on the hook, then you are off the hook for your clients creating any results. “It’s not on me. I had a client who worked with me for five years. They didn’t create anything but that was their breakthrough. After the world.” This is in opposition to the other side of this distinction, which is standing for people. Standing for people does not mean that you force them to do something.
What it means is that if you tell me you are committed to doing something, first, I’m going to check with you. I’m going to check that commitment and make sure you want it and then we are going to sit down and plan out how you are going to create it so you’ve got some structure to support you. Every time you show up to the conversation and you don’t mention this thing you have said that you are committed to, I’m going to stand for you by asking you how it’s going. If you say something like, “No big deal. I don’t want to talk about it, though,” then I’m going to ask you the next question, which is, “We don’t have to but I want to see going forward then what should we do because I noticed this is starting to become a pattern where you say you want something and then pretty quickly we move beyond it. We start to get outside of it and it becomes something that doesn’t matter that much to you.”
More Of What You’re Reliable For VS Increasing Your Range
There’s a predictable way this is going to go. That’s standing for people. We are on to our next little smorgasbord topic here that is more of what you are reliable for versus increasing your range. The best way to imagine this is that there’s a circle like a pie chart and the circle has a slice in it that’s red. It represents 60% of the pie. This pie slice is your existing range and the rest of the pie, the rest of that circle is everything outside of your range. If your range currently includes being loving and generous with people as a leader, it might be possible that something outside of that wedge, the range would be you shouting and screaming at people.
You modeling anger as a leader for these people. What tends to happen in leadership is that we hang on to, we defend and we stay rooted inside that existing pie wedge. We stay fixed on more of what we are already reliable for rather than getting to the point where we could increase our range. What happens is you can imagine that pie wedge. If you imagine this little pie-shaped wedge, you could draw some dashed lines emanating out from the two edges of that pie wedge into infinity, they go out forever. That’s what it’s like to expand or grow in our existing range. This is where most people aim in their leadership. This is invisible. It occurs like we are doing things differently but it’s a reflection of the same underlying range of ways of being we have access to.
When we are in a leadership conversation with someone, what happens is we get fixed on pulling back the conversation to my existing range. Where that leaves us is trying to create new results by doing what we have always done better, harder, faster and stronger. This is what is happening when we encounter the Peter Principle. The Peter Principle is this principle that people get promoted up to their own level of incompetence. I remember when I was a Project Manager, I always loved this because I would ding flea look at engineers that have been promoted up to management and then be like, “Loser. You are incompetent. The end.” From a leadership conversation, though, it’s a crappy way to look at people because it suggests that they are incompetent.
Instead, what is happening is that people get promoted to a point, and then they would try to use their existing range to create a new result. As an engineer, your result was you create some degree of product, unlocks a million lines of code every year or whatever. As the manager, your job is to cause, support and enable a whole bunch of engineers to create a whole bunch of results without you doing all that work. If your previous range and way of being were to do all the work yourself, you are going to end up being a manager who micromanages, who gets very perfectionistic, who protects their team and can’t let their team make their own mistakes because you are so focused on doing work yourself. What’s happening is you are trying to create a new result that would lie outside of your existing pie wedge by using all of the ways of being and doing that line inside your pie wedge.
What then happens is it’s a surefire recipe for burnout because the only option to create a new result becomes, “Do what I’m already doing harder, better, faster and stronger,” instead of creating the breakthrough and being supported in the leadership conversation that would allow us to expand beyond our existing wedge, create access to an entirely new range. When people say, “That’s not my style of leadership,” what they are doing is defending what they are already reliable for. My style, your style or their style of leadership as an objection to what I’m being invited to take on is a defense and a pullback to more of what I’m already reliable for. If we are developing the leadership of someone like this, the conversation to be in with them is, “It’s fine. I noticed that what you are calling your style of leadership is not reliable to create these results.”
Leadership As Something You Are Or Are Not VS Leadership As Something You Choose To Be
Are you committed to creating new results? If so, are you willing to trust what I can do to support you in developing and growing beyond your existing range? Are you going to stay here defending your existing range and what you are already reliable for? Do you want to create something beyond where you have arrived or do you want to defend where you have arrived? They are both fine. The choice is yours. The last one, which is leadership as something you are or are not versus leadership as something you choose to be. This is a little bit like leadership as a position versus an embodied way of being.
What people often do when we start to talk about a leadership conversation or an opportunity is they look at what they aren’t doing or what they already are doing like, “I’m already a leader. I’m not yet a leader. I’m not up for that. Look at all these people calling themselves leaders. There’s no way I could be that.” When we run The Forge, which is our group program for coaches and leaders, people that want to be coaches as leaders and leaders as coaches, meaning people that want to develop the ability to lead powerfully to coach and develop the leadership of those they are leading and that want to be able to coach master plan, model the work of a leader.
For people that want to do that, we also offer once they have gone through once or less a leadership track. They can come through where we are developing their leadership at higher and higher levels and with a steeper gradient. Often where people get stuck is they say, “I’m not a leader so I can’t say yes to that. Maybe once I’m a leader, then I can say yes to that.” They are looking around themselves for evidence that they already are a leader. This is the trap I see a lot of people get stuck into, is looking at their evidence, their background and the world around them and deciding, “I don’t have enough proof. I’m not a leader. I don’t think this game is for me.”
This is in contrast to leadership being ultimately something you choose to be in the moment. It doesn’t matter what evidence you have for the past and what stories you have about the future. To be a leader means a willingness at this moment, to choose from the leader, to be responsible for your impact, to trust me, whoever, someone to develop you and to stand for you beyond your resistance, beyond the place where you cannot even see your own blind spots, to choose to show up and be willing to hear where you are falling short to receive that feedback rather than defended away or explain how you already know it or to give feedback to the person giving you feedback. Instead, to do the challenging work of saying, “I’m choosing leadership at this moment,” and then taking whatever action there would be to take as a leader.
That’s how leadership is forged. The beautiful opportunity here is that leadership is available to you, the person reading, every moment. There is no, “I need to get here before I can then start doing the work of leadership.” There is no, “If only I had done this, then I would be leader and candidate for this.” Leadership is how you show up at the moment. The bad news about that is all the excuses you are using and reasons you are putting in front of you stepping into whatever your leadership calls from you, you’ve got to let those go because those are providing a convenient scapegoat, reason not to choose into leadership. All there is to do is to choose.
If you want any of these particular topics to be expanded or expounded upon, send us an email, GetLit@AdamQuiney.com. I would love to hear from you. It makes such a difference. You cannot know how valuable it is. If you enjoyed this show, please share it with people that are in the leadership conversation or that you think might be jazzed about this. These are important conversations that I don’t hear happening anywhere else in the world. I’m not present to another show and conversation where we are breaking apart the tried, tested, and truth about leadership so that we can get to a deeper level of understanding about this topic. Please share, rate it on iTunes, write a review. All of that stuff helps me, you, and those around you a great deal. Thanks for tuning in. We will see you next time. Bye.
About Adam Quiney
I’m an obsessive perfectionist, high-performer, former lawyer, and now an Executive Mentor. I know what it’s like to succeed easily and quickly. To blindly put my happiness in the hands of achievement.
All the success, money and possessions in the world couldn’t cure my boredom. Couldn’t produce a loving, intimate relationship with my wife…and definitely couldn’t fulfill me.