What is Leadership?

It is such a timely topic as the U.S. government transitioned from a “violent” one to a more “peaceful” one, based on some expert and public views. So, what kind of leadership are we expecting from this new administration? From reading personal and political histories about President Biden and Vice President Harris, they both led themselves to overcome many kinds of challenges to reach today’s positions. Hence, two effective self-leaders are leading the current administration and this country.

People may say that being a self-leader is easy nowadays, many social media platforms could make you a “Kim Kardashian” overnight if you have enough attractions. And if you are lucky enough and sustain the competition, you could be a KOL (Key Opinion Leader) for a while, such as AOC. She self-campaigned and ran for house representative when she was a waitress and bartender and is followed by millions now on Twitter. Are those good examples of self-leaders? Are they creating the impact we needed for our society but not just some random social influence? Some are, some are not. Then what is real self-leadership? How to be an effective self-leader?

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, said that “only when you operate with a combination of your strengths and self-knowledge can you achieve true and lasting excellence” in his book “Managing Oneself”. He further described four competencies of a self-leader of “listening, communicating, reengineering mistakes, and subordinating your ego to the task at hand” in “The Daily Drucker”.

I have attended many leadership trainings at corporations, social impact organizations, universities, and even spiritual communities. Most recently, I attempted to participate in the one-year “LEAD” executive program at Stanford University. The hosts of those trainings wrote or used books such as “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey, “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman, and more recent “Getting more of what you want” by Stanford professor Margaret Neal, etc. And all of them intersect self-leadership and leadership, which indicates the importance of one to the other. The skillsets I learned from the trainings have helped me develop competencies as a corporate employee and social entrepreneur.

However, as sustainable leaders, are there other competencies we need to create real impacts for systemic change to serve our community and the public? Long-time impact investor and financial activist Morgan Simon offered three simple but far-reaching principles for impact investors in her book “Real Impact”: engage communities in design, governance, and ownership; add more value than you extract; and fairly balance risk and return between investors, entrepreneurs, and communities. Her principles realigned our values with those of the stakeholders and the communities we serve and helped to lead my path in social innovation.

Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right thing.” We sustainable leaders are here to do “the right thing”, and I look forward to more learning, exploration, and reflection on this through LDR 6100 and other leadership courses at PGS (Presidio Graduate School).



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