Voor mijn bachelorthesis deed ik onderzoek naar de vraag: "Wat is goed leiderschap?". In de inleiding schreef ik een stuk over welke leiders mij in het beantwoorden op die vraag hebben geïnspireerd. Ik ben benieuwd welke leiders jouw inspireren...
As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by leadership. As a little girl, I adored the typical prototypes of leaders. Like my grandfather, a big man with a low and steady voice, who used to be the CEO of a multinational transport company. When he told a story everybody made sure he or she listened, as he somehow always seemed to be ‘right’ about things. He had a huge desk covered with piles of papers and when I was visiting as a 4-year old girl, I was allowed to sit on the desk so I could overlook the room. Now and then his secretary would walk in, excusing herself in a polite manner, handing over a sheet at which my grandfather placed his autograph with an almost dramatic gesture. He was CEO, because his father was CEO before him.
My second big leader was my teacher Jacqueline. She did not smoke pipe like my grandfather, neither was she big and grey like him. To the contrary; Jacqueline was young, energetic, sparkling and wore colorful clothes. She was always encouraging, said ‘yes’ to crazy initiatives any 10-year old can come up with (like trying to write a ‘dictee’ with your other hand) which enabled our class to make the first steps towards discovering a world of unconventionality at a very young age. Jacqueline gave us a lot of freedom, yet everybody seemed to do what she wanted. Nobody would dare to mess around with her or to challenge her authority. Jacqueline was truly fascinating. Jacqueline was a leader. At the age of 16, I had the privilege to meet Jan Peter Balkenende. It made quite an impression on me to meet someone who, in my eyes at that time, seemed so ´important´ and was leading the country. Though he did not sparkle nor empower me like Jacqueline did, nor did he have this natural authority vibration you would just instantly respect, like my grandfather had had… still, he was our prime minister, carrying the responsibility to represent 15 million people, and lead our country in the right direction. What made all these citizens trust or even follow this person?
I think one very big part about my fascination about leadership is the normative side around it. Though there are a lot of leaders, not everybody is a ‘good’ leader. The people mentioned above where good leaders to me. But also they served my interest at that current time. When working in a restaurant as a waitress I had a boss who snapped at me and only had an eye for things I did wrong and was not the slightest inch considered with my feelings. When he asked me for a favor of stepping in for a sick colleague I politely declined; he never had eye for my needs, now did he? Why would I care for his? Though I did not consider him to be an inspiring or good leader, I know in the restaurant world he was valued for his entrepreneurial way of running his business. I am sure everybody can mention people in their private and professional lives who have been a natural true leader for them, and others who might carry the title ‘leader’, but do not serve you in any way. As it is natural to avoid people who you don’t like in private life, the most obvious place where to encounter (and having to deal with) leadership, the good and the bad leaders, is the working environment.
Last year I could practice with being ‘a leader’ myself in a semi-professional environment. I held a position at the national board of a large student organization. Instead of making it more clear or getting any ‘aha’ feeling about leadership at all, it only made the concept more complex. It does not only take a position to be a leader. First of all, you need people to follow. This inclines that you also need a sense of direction, towards which you can lead the followers. But that is not enough, apart from knowing where to go, followers will need to have some kind of incentive to follow you (because they believe the direction I point out is the right one? Because they feel they have to obey positionauthority? Because they are reciprocal?). And then still, you can point out the dot on the horizon, but what if they don’t see the dot? Or they mistake it for another dot? Or they think the dot is too vague, or too far away/not reachable, or the dot does not ‘intrinsically motivate them’?
Enough questions and challenges in a year of playing around with leadership issues! And these challenges to me only made the concept of leadership more dynamic, more interesting. How can you be a better leader? And is there such a thing as ‘a good leader’? Is there a universal checklist with boxes that the leader has to ‘check’? What does it take to be a leader? Is one person born to be a leader and the other person born to be a good follower? And actually, to get somewhere in an organization; you need a good follower just as much as a good leader, and that makes the follower a leader as well. Followers have different preferences on how they want to be lead; is there one perfect leader matching all their needs? And is that actually the task of a leader? To please people? To provide a safe environment? Or to push them over the edge and lead them beyond their limits and enable them to tap into their own unexplored potential?
This is just a small sketch of the endless issues surrounding the concept of leadership. When it was time to choose a thesis topic, I wanted to pick a topic for which I already would have a natural fascination and unlimited curiosity, as well as something that would be challenging and dynamic; that is how my research question was being born.
This is what thrived me during the research and writing process of my bachelor thesis and I know will continue to thrive me in the future.
Wat fascineert jou aan leiderschap??! Laat het gerust weten door een comment te plaatsen!