I just returned from an amazing trip to Antarctica – I had the opportunity to see something I’ve been talking about for almost a decade. I’ve asked leaders around the world to think about what leadership really looks like. Have you ever thought about it? What does leadership look like?
If you had to draw a picture, what would you draw? Over the years, I’ve found this to be a powerful exercise – when faced with a problem, challenge or opportunity, I often try to represent it in a picture. I’m no artist, but it almost always helps me clarify my thinking.
When Chick-fil-A was working to accelerate our process for leadership development, one of the conclusions we reached was that a picture would be helpful. The image you see is a very nice rendition of the very crude drawing we created. We think an iceberg is the perfect picture of leadership.
Like an iceberg, there are two fundamental parts to leadership: that which is easily seen – above the waterline and that which is more difficult to see – those qualities below the waterline. If you follow the metaphor with me, we believe the part above the water represents the skills of the leader; the part under the water line represents the character of the leader. Both are critical to be an effective leader… and yes, like an iceberg – 90% is below the waterline.
Some say that leadership is all about character, I disagree. Think about someone you know with impeccable character that couldn’t lead themselves out of a room. In their case, the inability to lead has nothing to do with character –it is clearly a skill deficit. Flip the coin over and the opposite is also true. Some believe that leadership rises or falls exclusively on skills. Leadership certainly requires more than skills. Think of someone you know who has the skills of leadership that you would not want to follow. Why not? I’m guessing your hesitancy can be traced to concerns about their character.
Character and skills – any picture of leadership that fails to include both may leave you cold.