Timeless Leadership: A Conversation with David McCullough, an article in the Harvard Business Review.
The author of books including _John Adams_, _1776_, _Truman_, among many others conducted an interview with the editors of HBR (march 2008). It was a fascinating analysis of leadership from an historical basis. McCullough began with a plea: "We need leaders and not just political leaders. We need leaders in every field, in every institution, in all kinds of situations. We need to be educating our young people to be leaders and unfortunately that's fallen out of fashion."
McCullough talked about how leadership requires a unique combination of talents acquired through a set of learned experiences in line with a certain amount of unique talents. For instance, George Washington, had an incredible ability to spot talent even in places where it wasn't obvious. He also was able to let his leaders do their jobs with freedom and he was not afraid to let them fail and it is through the failure that he was able to assess their leadership and strength.
One of the key talents today has to do with the leader having real strength and talent in the arena of listening. Listening beneath the surface. To hear what they aren't saying as well as what they are saying. Knowing how to ask questions. Knowing how to direct the topics to see the deeper and more significant thoughts and actions of the leader or potential leader.
I work with people who have some of the greatest potential for leadership today. I love it! I get to see fledgling efforts. I also see weak initiative, even in the midst of strong potential. (I hate that!)
I overheard a conversation a couple weeks ago between a senior and a Teach For America Representative which gave me great concern. It was obvious this student had great leadership potential. She carried herself well. She had held a number of significant leadership positions on campus. She was well recommended by her professors and peers. It was obvious that she was seriously interested in TFA as a career. When pushed by the recruiter to fill out the application and move onto the next interview, she resisted. When asked by the recruiter, why she wouldn't apply, her answer was (and I'm not joking about this), "I am afraid that I would apply, go for the interview and then be rejected or not placed." I could not believe that someone who seemingly was the right fit in every discernible way would not risk failure by filling out an app!
I have great concern for a certain type of person who fails to risk for the sake of a 'possible' failure. I know many of these folks have never failed at anything. but we know logically that failure will come. In time a level of failure will be apparent. It happens to all of us.
I know for myself that it is only in my weakness that His strength is made obvious. I know this is a paradigm shift, from the lone woman (faith unknown)who chose to not risk. But in all of God's sovereignty His strength is made perfect in weakness.