Leadership: In a Nutshell

Leadership in a Nutshell

Dave LaRoche

Leaders come in all shapes, colors, and styles, and from most anywhere. Some are charismatic, leading with promises and smiles. Others are impressively organized and known for processes that seldom fail. Some are simply well known, well liked, and a pleasure to be around. Wherever, whoever: what follows is common among all—all, that is, who succeed.

A leader first has a vision: that is, where to take the group and for what purpose. For us, it may be growth in the membership roll; more published authors, or more through “traditional” hoops. It might be more members at meetings, better critique groups, and/or a wider variety. These visions, whatever they are, often emanate from the group via surveys, a consistency with previously adopted rules, or just ordinary talk while the leader has his or her ears to the ground.

After vision, the next ingredient in leadership is passion. The leader must want to fulfill the vision, must be willing to put in the energy, time, and potential inconvenience. He/she must be energized, enthusiastic, persuasive, and above all, believable and credible. With these, the leader develops a following, and from that the rest is ready to fall into place.

Above is the potential, but a leader must also produce movement; must be able to convert that potential into an executable plan and direct that plan to its anticipated conclusion, that is, the goal or goals that represent the original vision. So, the leader must be able to plan; to reduce the vision to workable goals, to identify and organize capable resources, and to design and put processes in place though which the goal may be reached. He must add feedback loops to the processes so that a misdirection or error in calculation can be recognized and a correction made

Through it all, the leader directs or oversees direction. She or he stays on top of the processes and their intention—provide motivation, bearing and suggestion; show enthusiasm and understanding, solve or assist in solving problems. Finally the leader must be able to recognize success, to give and take credit, and offer praise along the way.

This is a lot to ask of one person and/or that person may not possess all the ingredients. In either case the leader must then be willing to bring others in. He or she may ally with a partner or several who fill in where weaknesses lie—that is, they may form a team. A leader, for example, may have vision but lack passion or have both but not know about planning and directing—a common reason for stumbling or failing completely and why teams, picking up on the missing, often work. In a world where time is short and tasks are many, a team may be the best or only solution.

This sounds overwhelming but it’s not. These are building blocks and can be large or small. The point is, they all need to be there—a pocket full or a truck, depending on the size and complexity of vision. Changing the world may take an army, changing an element of our branch, not so much. Do you have an idea you’re passionate about?