Thoughts on Leadership, Entrepreneurship & Leading Change

By Sarah McVicar, AUNE MBA in Sustainability Candidate & HGC Volunteer

LeadershipHere in Antioch’s M.B.A. in Sustainability program, I have just had the opportunity to take a wonderful course on Leadership, Entrepreneurship & Leading Change.  I’d like to share with you a few of the interesting bits and themes that emerged…

For example, have you ever heard of followership?

We often hear sung the praises of great leaders, but little attention is paid to the idea of great followers. Yet, it can’t be denied that there would be no leaders if there were no followers. As Warren Bennis notes in his essay The Art of Followership, followers’ contribution to organizations is not just dependent on the leaders. For an organization to function at its best, followers too must take heart in the vision and mission, and be engaged and empowered to participate in the shaping of that vision.

In fact, as Bennis goes on to note, great followership in many ways is harder than leadership. It has more dangers and fewer rewards.

What else struck me?  We delved into a discussion of the nature of reality as an interconnected system. As Margaret Wheatley so poignantly writes, “The deeper that physicists peer into the nature of reality, the only thing they find is relationships… Everything in the Universe is composed of these ‘bundles of potentiality’ that only manifest their potential in relationship.” Especially in our modern culture that values rugged individualism, this is an important reminder that strength, in fact, lies in building our relationship with others.

We spent a great deal of time exploring a text called Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership, a collection of 10 essays addressing diverse aspects of what it means to be a leader. HBR tells us one distinguishing trait of leaders is motivation: the drive to succeed. To be effective, a leader must not only have this drive in him or herself, but inspire this drive in others. A great leader gets people excited about the organization’s vision for the future by engaging others in the shared process of creating that vision. As Bob Doppelt writes in his book Leading Change toward Sustainability, motivating change is achieved through the clear articulation of vision and principles.

The essays in HBR agree on another critical thing: Leadership requires the ability to adapt to change. An essay on What Leaders Really Do makes a distinction I found very interesting: Management is about coping with complexity, while leadership is about coping with change.

Finally, in a work called Action Trumps Everything, Charles Kiefer and Leonard Schlesinger introduce what they call CreAction – a principle based on the idea that we create the future through our actions. In this line of thinking, change is not an obstacle, but an opportunity. CreAction, the authors contend, is increasingly the method to use in an increasingly volatile and competitive working world.

What do you think?