Business Is Leadership

With FortyFour-Three I am trying to find ways to help people be better at what they do. I want people to be fully engaged in the work that they are uniquely gifted to do. It strikes me that having a business merely is leadership in a way that I haven’t seen it before.

I am reading The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. When I read leadership books, I most often have read these books from a management perspective. “How can I organize human resources in the most efficient manner in which employees are most engaged and alive, and the objectives of the organization are met?” There is nothing wrong with this approach. If all managers and leaders had the best interest of the employees at heart, companies would be much better off. Leading towards an objective works very well in companies where everyone can work towards a clear set goal, such as shipping a certain number of widgets or delivering more pies than last quarter.

There is a different perspective on leadership in business that I haven’t given much thought to, but I think it is even more important than only delivering efficiency. Kouzes and Posner talk about the leader having a vision for a different future, and then organizing people around this vision. This kind of leadership doesn’t have any power to force people to follow. When you paint a picture of a different future, people will follow you, or they won’t, but you don’t have any way to make them even pretend to be on board with your idea. This makes business the ultimate leadership work. You have to lead a group of people to engage in your product or service without them having any externally directed motivation. Your business, my business, is about leading people to a better future. If I want people to have a better future, I need to paint a picture of a better future and then help them do everything they can to get to that future.

Business can be about solving problems for people, or giving people what they want, or supplying people with a product or service that they are hiring to do a job for them. At its core business is about painting a picture of a different future, and helping people inspired by the same vision get to that different future. Business is leadership.