There are many who believe that only those who know a certain industry...only those who grew up around a certain industry...and only those who have spent their careers in a certain industry are able to lead those industries. And yet, there are countless examples of individuals who moved from one industry to another and led in an exemplary fashion (just as there are countless examples of those who spent their entire lifetime in a certain industry and failed miserably in the executive role). What makes leadership transferable? Here are a few thoughts:
- leadership is about understanding and being able to work with people
- leadership is about being curious and willing to learn what one does not know
- leadership is about surrounding oneself with really smart people
- leadership is about knowing and understanding the environment in which one is placed
- leadership is about listening to others
- leadership is about understanding that the leader is hardly ever the smartest person in the room
- leadership is about executing strategy and putting in place the tools to ensure execution
- leadership is about having the ability to consider and act on BOTH margin and mission
- leadership is about knowing where and how to spend one's time
- leadership is about building a team and setting that team loose to do the necessary work
- leadership is about articulating the mission and vision through story and data
- leadership is about the ability to know and understand one's own emotions and attitudes
So no matter what you lead or where you lead (and remember that leadership is not always about having a defined position), now is the time to start practicing these leadership attributes to prepare for the next leadership gig...no matter what particular industry for which one is chosen to lead.
Many thanks to both Rebecca and Paula for sharing their stories with me (and others) and to our friend and mentor Loren Anderson (former president of Pacific Lutheran University) who pulled the panel together. You are all excellent leaders who make a difference in the lives of people and institutions. May God continue to grant each of you health and peace in this new year.