Tom Walsh in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press opens a window for us to see and hear from Bill Ford, Jr., chairman of Ford Motor Company. Walsh quotes Ford: “I grew up around money, power and fame, and I’ve had all three myself and . . .” well, read the article to see how he finishes it. Darn interesting. Who isn’t interested in money, power, and fame?
I’m not just interested but obsessed with the notion of “everyday” leadership. And I think we need to actually fight our obsession with Top Dog Leadership. Now, I have counseled and coached and watched enough top-authority leaders in all kinds of organizations to know that the leader matters. Indeed, Bill Ford held that tenet so deeply, and had such personal humility, that he went out and found Alan Mulally – the only person he thought could turn the company around. Ford removed himself as CEO and put Mulally in. Mulally’s strategy, focus, and persistence are often credited for Ford’s great, ongoing turnaround. So, yes, top dogs matter – hats off to Bill and Alan – two fine everyday leaders.
But in our time, when machines and brutally impoverished global workers can do all the mindless and even pretty mind-ful work, our survival depends on the ability of individuals and groups at all levels to innovate and collaborate. And of course, the greatness of our families, our schools, our offices depend completely on everyday folks. Heroic CEO’s or governors can set courageous strategy and foster an empowering culture, but everyday leaders have to step up and deliver. One big mental block stands in our way: our obsession with those top dog leaders. We just can’t get enough hero-making and hero-dashing. Look at Obama: the only thing more incredible than the human tide and passion that swept him into office, has been the fierce, sudden, and vicious drive to now bring him down. Bush faced much of the same. Can you imagine if you had wild followers and vicious critics like that, quick to applaud you, and, yes even quicker to slay you?! Well, I suspect you do face exactly that.
I imagine every everyday leader hears voices of praise, and perhaps like our top-dog leaders, even more fierce voices of doubt and disparagement. We hear these voices in our own heads. Perhaps part of our virulence about the leaders stems from our fears and doubts that we can’t get the job done! I suspect it would behoove us to “withdraw the projections” as psychologists would say: Quit worshipping and demonizing our leaders and deal with our own wild hopes, as well as our deep doubts and self-recrimination.
What’s the alternative to attacking and defending yourself: Be clear about your vision and your values, get your strategy straight, and build the systems and support for you to
Lead with your best self!