What if ‘what’s’ wrong with leadership is the WHY, not the how?

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Martin sport lead climbing the Real TV route..Photo By iwona_kellie

What if what’s really wrong with leadership is the WHY, not the how?

Wikepedia defines leadership as “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. ” Wikepedia then immediately follows with this double bob and weave, CYA statement, “Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged.”

More inclusive? Go to any book store and you’ll find volumes of leadership books disecting the attributes and traits of leaders. Since as far back as Plato’s Republic we’ve been asking the question, “What makes a great leader?”

Excuse me, I must veer left…

Turn left before crocodilephoto credit By bob_rayner



The issue with leadership isn’t we don’t have enough information on what to do, or even how to do it. CLEARLY we don’t need more goobly gook on attribute leadership, trait relationship, task, behaviorist or relationship leadership. We need to look in the mirror. YEP. The problem with leadership is PERSONAL. It’s you an me, baby!

What’s wrong with leadership is the WHY behind why we’re doing it at all. Our personal purpose for leading. And ultimately the lack of self awareness as to how our ‘WHY we are leading’ is impacting others.

What if the number one issue with leadership is not how or what, not tactics or strategy at all?

What if.

What if leadership is nothing more than a way of being. My friend Ethan Yarbrough and I have spent a year in coffee shops, no we didn’t stay in a coffee shop for an entire year. We’ve been meeting and reflecting on leadership and then taking actions in our daily lives. We’ve been pressing into leadership as a way of being. We’ve been getting clear on the WHY we lead, our purpose for leading.

I have no idea if Ethan will agree to the premise I’m making today. But I I do know, that our conversations combined with my experiences have led me to a leadership definition that is radically opposed to ‘General Wikepedia’.

For me leadership is a way of being. And the highest purpose of leadership is to create structures, ventures, processes, experiences, opportunities and movements that liberate others to become ‘beings for themselves’ not ‘beings for others’ As Paulo Friere outlined in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

When leadership turns people into automoans, negates their ability to become their fullest, best self, or in any way creates a sense of dependency or hopelessness, it is oppressive and its leaders oppressors.

It’s the ‘why’ a leader leads that informs what a leader does and how they do it.

If you are leading with the purpose of turning other human beings into ‘beings for yourself, mission, sales goals, quarterly objectives, brand, stock price, bonus….etc’ Well then you ARE what is wrong with leadership.

Most of us are against sadism, oppression, dehumanization, domestication, prejudice, domination but in reality these things exist in most communities, organizations, ventures and businesses. Why?

What is your purpose as a leader? Why are you leading?

Are you leading to liberate your team, employees, volunteers, community members to realize their fullest potential? Is leadership a way of being for you? Is it personal? Is your purpose to architect structures, processes, experiences that liberate people to become ‘beings for themselves’?

People are not banks or receptacles to be filled. Nor are people, employees, team members, community members blank tablets for you and I to write our visions or dreams on or to dominate.

People are the miracle of creation-.

The picture above illustrates my WHY.

Why are you leading? What is your purpose?

Leadership – it’s personal.

Pam Hoelzle

pam @ Pam hoelzle.com

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