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Thoughts on leadership ahead of AGAPE Conference

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Agape Conference 2019

A few years ago, I attended a leadership conference where the speaker mentioned that searching for “leadership books” on Google returned 5000 hits. Today you’re probably talking even more than that.

Does that mean that leadership is so complicated we need all of this literature to understand it? And which one of these books is right? What theory to choose? Leadership is hard, but it can also be easy. But what you really need as a leader is to know yourself and to understand the people you lead.

So I did something similar to this speaker I mentioned earlier on. I googled about leadership workshops across a few countries. And what I found was particularly interesting. When I googled those in Swedish, listening skills came up as top traits that employees wanted from their leader but in English it wasn’t even mentioned. Hmm, interesting.

As I observe or meet either leaders or employees, it seems that most people, whether managers or employees, expect that the manager themselves be the one that talks, give orders, set the rules. And guess what happens? At some point employees stop listening. They do want to contribute as well, even from the very beginning. Instead, they stop trying to make themselves heard.

So what happens when the manager stops talking and starts listening? Magic happens. Employees flourish, the business flourish, the atmosphere is nicer, even the room seems lighter. Listening works like a magic wand.

As coaches we challenge the knowledge you already have and bring to life the solutions you store in your own memory. When the coach has a defined speciality, they can bring perspective without giving you advice or direct you on a certain path. What happens if managers apply the same thinking?

As for leadership theories, most of them reach the same conclusion overall. I usually recognize most new theories have simply been paraphrased into a new format. Sometimes easier is the better and training courses that lean towards classic knowledge are safe. And to top it up, in organizations, it is easier if the people use the same terminology. The right theory is the one that the organization chooses to use. If people tend to move around, why not use a theory most people are familiar with, that is well recognised on the market, so you don’t have to train them again?

One of my favourite theories is FIRO (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation) by Will Schutz. FIRO was developed in the 1950s following a request from the US Navy to understand why groups that seemed to have the same set up ended up with different results. FIRO is one part of the Human element Will Schutz developed throughout a number of years. A lot of today’s theories uses a circular approach to show how group develop to become efficient, which FIRO doesn’t, making it a genius and simple theory. I love to use it to explain how groups and people within that group develop and what leadership style you need to take the group forward in its maturity.

So, what is leadership for you? And where are you today and where are you going? Are you still searching maybe? Or do you already have a path to pursue? Do you want to deepen your knowledge or are you just starting to gather information?

At AGAPE Conference, you will find a number of answers from excellent experts explaining their areas of speciality, all of them extremely skilled, experienced and knowledgeable. As for myself? Back to the US Navy and FIRO, I heard a story once that the first question they asked Will Schutz was: why was the officer shot in the back by his own soldiers? The answer? That’s what I will be telling you all about at AGAPE Conference!

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