The Rooted Leader

Autumn Storm

It seems pretty stormy right now.

Here in Europe, it’s mid winter, with the politics exhibiting an equal lack of warmth.

Which takes me to leadership. Outside my window, the trees are bending in the wind, but the trees don’t move (It’s not, after all, Middle Earth).

It seems a reasonable metaphor for leadership. The trees are both rooted, and connected and in it for the long haul.  (If you haven’t seen it, there’s a beautiful short video on the “Wood Wide Web” from the BBC that describes this eloquently)

Leaders are like trees. They’re grounded, connected, and up for the storm.

Managers are different. They’re highly mobile. Most of us here on LinkedIn will have made, or be making, our living as itinerant managers.

According to the FT, we need to plan for five careers in a lifetime, and all the indications are that number itself is a short term forecast.  For my own part, I’ve managed businesses in five different sectors in five different countries. The management skills are very similar, but leadership is very different. We are unlikely to adopt five different sets of values in our lifetime, and for our lives to be meaningful, there will be a path we are trying to discern that matches the values we have. There is a thread we are looking for in order to follow.

Managing people and systems is largely a process. There is good practice, templates, training courses, and increasingly, automation. It values certainty and predictability.

Leadership is a commitment to a set of values and beliefs. It comes into its own in times of uncertainty and unpredictability. People will only seriously follow you if you take root where they are. Share their values. Commit to their welfare. Take a stand. Be grounded and rooted.

You can train to be a manager, but have to believe in something to be a leader.

We are entering a period where certainty and predictability are in short supply.

Leaders are needed. Managers we can hire.

Time to take root in what matters to you.


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