Earlier this week I returned to my alma mater (hey, NYU!) for an event related to their Leadership Initiative, a program aimed at preparing students to be ethical and inclusive leaders who have a profound impact on the world. As one of the alums leading discussions with students, I was urged to have everyone think about one word to describe the kind of leadership they want to build for themselves.
As I was thinking about this question, I thought to myself, how would I answer that? I was initially stumped. It’s one thing to know the definition of leadership (Merriam-Webster defines the word as “the power or ability to lead other people”), but it’s another to know, and work toward, a certain kind of leadership.
The NYU Leadership Initiative talks about leadership as a collective achievement, one focused on inclusion, diversity and differences to achieve a shared purpose. As the world becomes more connected and blended, I feel as though this type of leadership is not only something to aspire to but is also crucial. The old perception of leadership as one person leading the way while everyone else follows does not have lasting power. One only needs to turn on the news to see that. Instead, a collaborative approach, in which there are differences and those differences are recognized and respected and then used to achieve a shared goal, seems to be the ideal kind of leadership. Though it’s easier said than done, it’s certainly possible.
For me, I love the task of continually working toward collaborative leadership because it means always having to listen and be cognizant of any disagreements or moments of tension. With collaborative leadership, there has to be an element of understanding and respect in order to get to that shared goal, so it’s a constant exercise in awareness of others as well as awareness of yourself. That is the kind of leadership I believe in and work to build for myself. What kind of leadership do you aspire to?