You'll Know It When You See It

Posted by John Abodeely, Oct 20, 2009 6 comments

I started thinking about leadership when I got my first, national-in-scope job. It was a word that was tossed about our office all the time and I was suspect. No one would ever say what they meant by it. It was, we knew, necessary, important, lacking, and the secret of success.

Out of need, I defined it myself. I haven’t tried to write it down before, so I’ll try to articulate some of it here. Contribute to my mess by writing in comments below!

Leadership includes elements of the following:

1.    The best of intentions. These intentions include

  • The best interests of those without knowledge, authority, or money to do it for themselves
  • Your peers’, coworkers’, and colleagues’ best interest
  • Placing a priority on fairness for all
  • A dedication to satisfying a noble goal, not egotistical instincts

2.    Positive energy.

  • Nobody wants to help Debbie Downer realize her vision.
  • Nobody wants to help mean people, either.
  • It’s other people—not you—who really know if you’re a downer or if you’re mean.

3.    Work smarter and harder.

  • A platitude: Give everything you can, then give some more. When I’m working for something awesome, this actually motivates me.
  • Cure causes, not symptoms. There’s too little talent and energy in the world to waste them fixing symptoms.
  • Try to change power structures. Systems of decision makers, policies, and habits of practice have created the world we’re in. If you want to change things, identify who and what they are, and then set out to change them, bit by bit.
  • Ask for help. It’s everywhere. But because it’s hard to find the right person to help, we give up on asking. But that’s the work—finding the right person. Once you do that, things get easier. So do that.

4.    Make as many people happy as you can; and make as few people sad or angry.

  • It’s like being a politician: keep your approval rating higher than your disapproval rating. It’s a good gauge for the quality of your goal, your process, and your rep.

5.    Always, always, always seek, expect, and work your butt off for quality.

  • The only thing that matters is quality and people’s feelings.
  • Suffer fools with patience and compassion, but don’t make any decisions they want you to make.

There’s more to this. Correct me and contribute in the comments below!

No matter what, take comfort in knowing that though it’s hard to articulate what leadership is, you’ll know it when you see it.

6 responses for You'll Know It When You See It


Stephanie Evans says
October 22, 2009 at 4:57 pm

John - Thank you for these great posts. After working down the hall from you for the past year, I can really say that you embody each of these qualities. Thank you for sharing your secrets:)


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Marialaura says
October 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Agreed on all 5 points! What about direction? How does having a clear sense of direction figure into this leadership description? As Erin Hoppe said above: "There is no leading without people willing to trust you, believe in a common vision they have a say in..." It seems that this common vision and direction must be defined by the leader and communicated appropriately to the team in order to be successful in working towards a shared goal. Thanks John! You are awesome.

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October 20, 2009 at 11:35 am

thank you for these words of wisdom

From One-Over-40.

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Jessica Mele says
October 20, 2009 at 1:28 pm

yup. well put. and i would add to #1. at the risk of being too touchy-feely: listening & guiding. a good leader doesn't just act in the best interest of those around him or her. a good leader leads others to identify what they need and want, and then supports them in getting it themselves. a good leader has power with, rather than power over, others.

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Erin Hoppe says
October 20, 2009 at 3:05 pm

It makes me happy and optimistic to see the positivity coming out of these ruminations.
I took a Leadership class in graduate school and much of the talk about transactional and servant and other leadership was intangible as I hadn't really understood just yet how my experiences would translate from "follower" to "leader."
I am learning how important it is to prioritize listening and respect when it comes to those who are looking to you for leadership and guidance. There is no leading without people willing to trust you, believe in a common vision they have a say in, and all the elements you describe above.

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October 20, 2009 at 5:57 pm

From the reading so far, this blog movement will be very interesting, as a discussion and networking with professionals making a mark on modern conceptual ideas; that will be moving contemporary art in the 22 second century.Looking forward to put my two cents in. peace Jacob Artist, veteran, and curator

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