There is an ebb and flow to leadership, and it's reflected in the very duality of the role of a leader within an organization. Let me share my perspectives on this as an insight into being an effective CIO.
The first concept to expand upon is that of leading without leading. Many people feel that an effective leader should learn how to either "pull" their followers along, or become adept at "pushing" followers to "follow." At first blush, this might sound a bit simplistic, unrealistic, or naïve, but the practice of pulling or pushing followers is much more prevalent than one might expect.
When we push or pull followers along, they're simply acquiescing to our demands or desires. In contrast, when a leader truly has people following him or her, people act not because they have to so much as because they want to. How is this accomplished? How do we shift our team from acquiescing because they feel they have to to a place where they excel because they want to?
It's captured within the concept of leading without leading. An accomplished leader develops the ability to inspire those around him or her to be, do, and give their best. An effective leader elicits excellence from their team. It's not about "getting" people to do anything and it's not about being viewed as "the leader." It's really about becoming the kind of person others admire, respect, rely on, and want to emulate. People are attracted to and respond to us because of who we are, and not because of what we do.
The next concept to examine is the ebb and flow of leadership style. Many leaders make their mark on an organization by staying true to a certain style of leadership. And while consistency and acting with integrity are critical to strong leadership, one's style of leadership needs to ebb and flow with changing situations and circumstances. Sometimes a strong, unyielding style is required, and other times, a determined yet yielding style is called for. The more adept at masterfully flowing among the various leadership styles (visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting, commanding), the more effective that leader can be at eliciting excellence.
And finally, we need to examine the duality of the role of a leader. The duality of leadership is reflected in the fact that sometimes a leader is the master and at other times, a leader is the servant. In truth, servant leadership can be an extremely effective role which fosters respect, admiration, and trust -- all of which are very powerful influences in eliciting excellence.
It is the very fact that we're in charge (master) that allows us to play the role of servant with great impact. Without having a role as master, the impact and influence of the role of servant is greatly diminished. Conversely, playing the role of master without also being a servant makes us far less influential.
If a leader acts in self-interest without regard for the people they are leading, their impact and effectiveness is soon diminished. Over the years, we've seen the self-interest of many corporate leaders exposed, and their power and stature destroyed. But the other extreme can be just as ineffective. If a leader abdicates his or her authority, is unable to make confident decisions, and does not command respect, an organization will soon lose its way and collapse.
The concepts of leading without leading, flowing among leadership styles, and understanding the role of leader as both master and servant are essential to effective leadership and to eliciting excellence. If a CIO is to excel as a leader, they must abandon the concept of developing themselves as "leader" and must embrace the concept of mastering the ability to elicit excellence in others. This is not simply a matter of semantics, but a fundamental shift in perspective.