Leadership is a Community

Sometimes it’s the leader who gets the acclaim.
But it’s rare that the leadership didn’t have a community behind him.

Leadership is a community: a historical look.

Christopher Columbus is famous as the first European to discover America in 1492.
His name is on the discovery brand. End of story, surely?
But the truth is less black and white. He wasn’t the first European to discover America, of course. Leif Ericson led a Norwegian expedition there in the 11th century.
And four centuries later, Columbus needed a community of people to make that famous landing.
It was in 1470 that the Florentine astronomer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli suggested sailing west was a quicker way to Asia than sailing east.
Suddenly, a new adventure beckoned Europe’s sailors…and Columbus seized it.
But he didn’t act alone. He was dependent on the sea community he grew up with in Genoa, who did little but discuss sea craft; on visionary astronomers like Toscanelli; on the Portuguese who’d learned about the Atlantic trade winds; and on cartographers like his brother Bartolomeo.

Columbus had his own gifts. He was a driven man with undoubted navigational skills – and persistence. He’d badgered every monarch in Europe for funding and faced repeated rejection until the Spanish finally said ‘Yes’.
But he’d needed the courage, experience, loyalty and knowledge of others to make it happen…because leadership is community.
And if he’s difficult to like from a distance, it’s because he refused to recognise this. Once in America, he wanted all the money, credit and power for himself.

Leadership and community in today’s workplace.

I remember listening to a young man on a leadership course who’d managed to arrange an interview with Sir Richard Branson.
He’d been very excited. Who knew more about leadership than Sir Richard?
But after ten minutes, it became clear that he was talking to the wrong person. Sir Richard couldn’t answer his leadership questions.
He was the visionary, the ideas man…but he employed others to lead and run the business.

Sir Richard understood leadership is a community, a gathering of gifts…of which he had one or two.
Leadership is an awareness of both what you offer and where you need help.

Columbus struggled with this. He died refusing to accept that he’d discovered a new continent, for instance. Despite evidence to the contrary, he was convinced he’d made it to Asia.

Others told him otherwise. But what did they know? He was the leader here…he had all the gifts.

With experience of over a thousand 1-2-1 sessions with employees across multiple sectors, The Mind Clinic has used its unique insights to design a series of Development Days to help organisations respond creatively to today’s challenging and changing workplace. For more information see Development Days.