I’ve become increasingly convinced that one of our greatest leadership challenges in higher education and far beyond is the way in which we select and reward leaders.
There are two extremes in leadership, to my mind—leaders who have developed and carefully cultivate a vision of leadership and purpose vs. those leaders who step into leadership positions actively pursuing personal affirmation and self-promotion.
Leaders pursuing vision and purpose arrive in these leadership roles with a good sense of self, a defined vision, and a clear sense of how their vision/purpose will be enabled through their leadership role or platform. These individuals often cultivate sources of affirmation that are self-driven or external to the leadership role that they hold. Where one seeks validation is critical as it’s all too easy to let the search for affirmation become the guidepost, rather than the outcome, of value-driven pursuit of vision AND purpose.
Leaders pursuing a vision embrace the need to communicate their vision and engage in bilateral exchanges with those they lead and serve as they actively advance. Vision-driven leaders understand and intentionally cultivate broad buy-in, make tough decisions, and arrive at decisions primarily driven by pursuit of intended outcomes and impact, rather than prioritizing personal gains or a need for external validation.
On the other extreme (and unfortunately all too common in some places and spaces) are individuals with a desire to lead and to be recipients of the perceived “spoils” of leadership—respect, perceived power, admiration and more. These leaders often seek to affirm their sense of self, or attempt to lead in search of a vision. Such individuals often seek affirmation as a core part of carrying out their leadership role, which can have significant impacts on decision-making processes. Indeed, when leadership is pursued or engaged as a key venue for seeking self-affirmation or self-promotion, the most likely outcomes are decisions founded on self-preservation.
These thoughts about pursuit of vision vs. personal affirmation in leadership roles are ones that I’ve been contemplating for some time:
If you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM