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Thoughts on Leadership

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Keith G.C. Twitchell, president of Committee for a Better New Orleans/Metropolitan Area Committee (CBNO/MAC) has been in leadership positions ranging from CBNO/MAC to being an Eagle Scout to being captain of Krewe du Vieux. SOSNOLA’s executive director Angela Daliet, a CBNO/MAC Bryan Bell Metropolitan Leadership Forum graduate (of a 10-week workshop series for emerging community leaders to gain a better understanding of the major issues facing New Orleans), recently had the privilege of listening to Keith’s take on leadership. Here he graciously shares some of his lessons and observations.

Thoughts on Leadership

By Keith G.C. Twitchell, Guest Blogger

Leadership is not something that I think is easily defined.  Even though any dictionary will have a nice little definition of leadership, I don’t think it can be so easily encapsulated.

  • There are many styles and forms of leadership.
  • Leadership is often shaped by circumstances and events, as we saw in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Leadership is working tirelessly to achieve consensus – and taking the lead in moving forward anyway whenever consensus cannot be reached – and taking the bullets that will inevitably fly from those whose views are different from the direction you take.

Leadership is a lot less about exercising power than it is about aiding others in finding their power.

Leadership is about sharing the credit and accepting the blame.  I remember reading an article some years ago contrasting the way Japanese corporations and American corporations operated.  The memorable line was that “In Japan, when there is a problem, they try to fix the problem; in America, when there is a problem, they try to fix the blame.”

Leadership is about listening first, then speaking the truths you hear.  It is knowing when to ask and when to tell.

Leadership requires seeing both the forest and the trees, and understanding the role and contribution of each tree in the forest.  In California, the redwood trees are magnificent, huge, the most amazing vegetation you will ever see.  Yet redwood trees have very shallow roots, and they only remain upright because their roots interlock, holding each other up.  Cut down a couple redwoods in a stand and the rest will fall too.

Leadership is about staying calm and focused right up to the point where getting really angry is the only tactic left.

Leadership is about always remembering what the objective is, regardless of the emotions, the conflicts, the flying bullets, the opposition, and the fear; and always acting in a way that enhances the chances of achieving the objective.

Lastly, leadership comes down to two things, both of which are words that are so overused these days that they are in danger of becoming meaningless; but I think they are still at the heart of leadership:  vision and accountability.

  • Leaders have a vision, whether it is for their neighborhood, their company or their country.
  • Leaders take the risk of articulating their vision, and commit to enrolling others in that vision.
  • Leaders nurture the growth of their vision, willing to let go of certain details, to allow others to expand  upon it and embellish it, but always making sure that its core integrity is maintained, and being responsible for defending that core integrity when necessary.
  • And leaders are always focused on the path to realizing that vision, not necessarily seeing the entire path right now, but leading the way to taking the immediate next steps while searching constantly – and collaboratively – for the rest of the path.

Accountability is simply saying that whatever happened here, I am responsible for it.

To summarize, leadership without vision is purely power-seeking, and vision without leadership is no more than daydreaming.

Written by SOSNOLA

December 2, 2009 at 1:58 PM