Leadership Is A Process, Not A Position

I am not one to get star struck, nor am I interested in obtaining autographs and such. However, one person I have always admired and wanted to meet is Colin Powell. Since I can remember, I have been aware of the way in which he carries himself, speaks, and has the confidence that makes you trust in him. He comes across as a true leader and is able to do so for a couple of reasons.

Colin Powell has been blessed with many opportunities in which to continually inspire people and challenge ideas. He looks to the long term and addresses each obstacle that courses his bath on the way to that goal. Most importantly, I believe the main reason in which he has been able to become such a great leader is that he has great followers. These followers not only believe in his visions, but trust his leadership in order to help in achieving the goal set forth. I believe a good leader can only shine if they have good people to help carry out the vision.

I am one of four (4) working my Human Resource Department. Directly above me are the manager and my counterpart, both of whom have been with the company for over twenty years. Throughout the reading it became clear how these two function together being such opposites. Prior to this, I often asked my counterpart how he is able to work with our boss for so long being that they are so different. His response is always the same, “Because it works”.

Our boss exemplifies what this chapter describes as the “Manager”. By seeking affirmation on his decisions, it is apparent that he wants to do the right things. He focuses on the short-term and wants to have control over what everyone in the department is doing. He doesn’t ever take credit for work that is not his, but he does like questions to be directed his way so he is always in the know with what’s going on.

My counterpart on the other hand, he is a leader. He constantly is encouraging me to do more and look at the long term affect of status quo versus making a change. He is never hesitant to make decisions and encourages me to do the same, as long as it is the right thing to do. He is teaching me to embrace the obstacles that cross the path of change without waiver. Affirmation is not important to him because he has confidence in his ability to assess situations and adapt accordingly for the best results. He is the king of “asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission”. It is partially because of him that I am going back to school. These two function so well together because they compliment each others strengths and weaknesses and I think this is attributed to all the time they have spent working with each other.

Once you know how a person or a group of people work, it is much easier to form a cohesive team. Because situations can vary so drastically, I do not buy into the school of thought that leaders are either are born or made. To be a good leader, you must constantly adapt to the changes around you. Through our experiences, we know what we expect in a good leader and try to emulate those qualities. I certainly believe there are those that have the self-confidence and aptitude to lead without hesitation, but without experiencing good and bad leaders, I don’t think a person can be a good leader. Those experiences have to be learned, making the already born leader, made.

I have yet to be in a position within my current job where I have been given the opportunity to try my own leadership skills, until recently. Our Vice President of Administration approached me with a simple question, “How are things going with (our current pension provider)”. Since then, I have gone onto making recommendations to the executives, reexamine our plans to make sure they are still in line with our mission as a company, and have worked closely with an actuary forecasting costs of operating as is and providing different scenarios to the Financial Committee as to what lay ahead.

Prior to this, I had never been given the opportunity to lead, in this case a project, and carry the weight on my shoulders. I have to say, it feels good to have that confidence in something and know that the recommendations being provided will have long term repercussions and being willing to see the process through.

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