One of the ironies of the world today is that there are many more phones in use than there are toilets around the world. One example where we've seen this to be true is in Cambodia.
The Leadapreneur team has concluded a 9-month program designed to transform rural commune councillors in Cambodia into Civic Champions who can transform the civic reality of their environment. The objective of this program was to catalyse the installation of toilets in rural villages in Cambodia.
Preliminary results show that our program has changed the installation rate form one toilet per month to in some cases over 60 toilets installed in 3 months.
The initial focus was on improving sanitation by increasing the rate of toilet installation, however, the Civic Champion is engaged with all civic issues for example education & health. The key question is, how to transform an ordinary councillor into a Civic Champion?
By finding a way to activate their desire to be a “Civic Champion”. Our approach is to focus on activating the desire within an individual to become a Civic Champion, to make it something that is so desirable that you are willing to work like never before to achieve that status. We believe that if people want something badly enough, they will find a way to make it happen. A fine example of this is the profusion of expensive phones that can be found in ‘poor’ areas that one would never think could afford such a luxury. This is indeed a global phenomenon and one of the ironies of the world today is that there are many more phones in use than there are toilets. If people are to become Civic Champions, if they are to push themselves out of their comfort zone and challenge themselves, then it has to be worth it. How do we do this?
By awakening, engaging and driving them to be excellent. The starting condition for all outcomes is the desire to achieve that outcome. Either you want it or you don’t. Once you are clear that you want to achieve something e.g. become a Civic Champion or just improve health in your community, then you are concerned with finding out how you can do this. Thus, our starting requirement is to awaken people to the question ‘do you want to be a Civic Champion or not?’ followed by ‘how badly do you want it?’ Most people don’t want to be Civic Champions so our task is to find those who will work to be a Civic Champion and avoid those who won’t. This is done by awakening people to the possibility of becoming a civic champion by presenting them with concept. People must then decide if they want to become a Civic Champion or not and this decision is what leads them to become engaged with the program.
At the engaging stage, people are challenged to grow and develop themselves and translate that enhanced capacity to achieve better results. The key point is to ensure that they feel their learning experiences are relevant to enhancing their capability. At this stage, participants are asked to meet standards of performance that require them to step out of their comfort zone and into their stretch zones. This requires them to continuously participate in the program and therefore ensures their continued engagement.
The final stage is driving. The difference between the engaging and driving stages is that in the engaging stage the participant is pushed to excel by the program whereas in the driving stage the participant is pushing themselves and others to excel. In other words, rather than being driven to succeed, they choose to drive themselves forward to be as excellent as possible. Further, their desire to achieve excellent outcomes in their chosen area e.g. sanitation, leads them to engage & drive others to improve the chosen area. Thus, the circle closes itself in that new people have been awakened to improve themselves and their community and the participant can now lead them through the engaging & driving stage.
In the end, we are defined by the challenges we set ourselves. The greater the challenge the greater our opportunity for growth; if we are to become great leaders then we must find the courage within us to go on a great learning journey, one that awakens and engages us to drive ourselves forward and achieve our dreams.
Are leaders born or made?
The idea that leaders are born requires that there is a specific leadership gene.
But if we look into history, we see leaders arise in all kind of places and all kind of status stature, from the rich to the poor, from the smart to the less smart without their ancestors or parents having been great leaders. Further, we see plenty of evidence that the children of great leaders e.g. Kings and Queens can be poor leaders. The bottom line is that there is no evidence that leadership comes in the form of gene and the continued belief that leadership has particular biological origin is a superstition. Though we see that certain groups tend to generate leaders e.g. political dynasties, this is because of the way in which the children are raised rather than a biological blessing.
More modern research has focused on the idea of traits; to be a leader you must demonstrate a certain trait. Sometimes this approach is presented as "the answer" because there have been many studies and papers written on the subject but this is more out of desperation and exasperation than truth. After decades of research there is NO universally accepted leadership trait, sometimes there is even disagreement on what leadership actually is let alone how it works. Though traits can be important for some leaders, they are not a universal truth.
For us, the most interesting approach is to consider leadership as a social phenomenon i.e. an organized pattern of behavior exhibited in social groups. We prefer this approach because we think it is the most useful as it focuses on what leadership actually does (the technical term is ‘complexity leadership’). The idea is that leadership is a particular behavioral pattern that is exhibited by an organization to ensure its continued viability. In other words, leadership is a set of activities that any social system (e.g. organization, team, community, country, city etc.) must continuously perform in order to ensure its continued survival and success. These 3 activities are as follows:
The reason why we like this approach is that it moves away from the naïve idea of the "heroic leader" who is successful because they are perfect. Though we idealise our leaders, in reality they are just normal people with great strengths and very human limitations. By understanding leadership as a phenomenon, we can focus on the activity of leadership not on the leader. This is crucial because it allows us to focus on the leadership activities that must be performed to maintain the viability of the organization and not be distracted by the individual detail of each leader. This approach is also empowering because it means everyone can lead because everyone can contribute to the 3 key activities listed above. This is extremely important because today most leaders are crippled by an overwhelming amount of workload. Distributing leadership activity throughout the organization by understanding it as a social a phenomenon reduces the workload on the formal leaders i.e. those who are formally designed in the social system as leaders and gives them more time to focus on the really important things. This gives them the time and space to make better decisions ultimately improving overall performance in the organization.
IN SUMMARY, we believe leadership is not about how you are born, it’s about how individual and groups organize their patterns of behavior to describe what a better future looks like, how they influence each other to work together to create that better future, and how they work to preserve the unity of their community in the face of challenging change.