Monday, September 27, 2004

A plea to the members: can we get more grassroots?

Hello Leadership -- it seems as though we've reached a cross-roads here at Leadership. While we've been enjoying the posts here for the past few weeks, it perhaps might be time to go a little 'more to ground.'

Grassroots examples of leadership are perhaps where we should be investing the bulk of our time. I, for one, vouch that we start bringing out examples from the people we know from our daily lives and interactions -- the small stuff.

How, for instance, might our lowly bus driver do things in a leading way? Perhaps it's in the way he stacks his change on the dispensing machine -- for those of us accustomed to drivers who administer change -- perhaps it's the way he stacks his transfers on the shelf? Or, if you have subways where you live, maybe it the efficient manner he's able to quickly dispense information about routes and schedules.

Or how about our dry cleaner? For without them delivering our suits and shirts and dresses and skirts on time -- we'd never be able to look our very best for that all-important business meeting.

It all goes back to the small things.

For far too often we get caught up in the big picuture, which has a tendency to cause us to feel powerless, paralysed, and more than a little anxious.

But leadership starts from down below. Micro stuff. The basics. Sometimes - it seems - I wonder where we'd be without all 'em.


At 9:53 am, Blogger Simon said...

Hey there Adam,

Thanks for the challenge! An interesting one, because from my observation of bus drivers (and I'm seeing a lot these days) most of them profoundly lack leadership skills. Sadly, that's why they're bus drivers.

On the other hand, there are the occasional gems who realise that their job doesn't simply have to be driving the bus. They're also guides for the lost and confused, customer service reps for the bus company, and in fact representatives of the beautiful city of Auckland to all visitors.

They can choose to take this role seriously, and be friendly and forthcoming, or they can be surly and indifferent, as many of them come across, and make anyone who asks a question feel a fool.

I read a great quote in Fast Company the other day: "Leaders are men and women who have chosen the right profession" (David Halberstam, author, "The Best and the Brightest"). I wholeheartedly agree with this, but I also think that true leadership shows in a person, even if they're not in the 'right' profession.

True leaders recognise that their attitude on the journey is just as important as the destination.

At 3:02 am, Blogger Borscht said...

Simon -- hey bro. Actually, I see where you're coming from...I'm actually thinking of the following situation -- a man who's really a writer who drives a bus during the day to make his daily bread.

Being in a job where you have a chance to view many different people throughout the day -- you start building up profiles, and this gives you a much keener perspective on the human condition -- as opposed to some kat who spends most of his waking hours solitarily in front of a computer screen -- only rising to relieve and refuel -- if you catch my drift.

This is also a form of leadership, in my opinion. Understanding various human beings, understanding what drives their needs and wants and desires. Being able to look someone in the eye and knowing -- within a narrow band of probability -- what they're liable to do. This is also a form of leadership.

Um...isn't it?

At 7:05 am, Blogger Simon said...

Ah, I get what you mean. Sort of. The whole thing of awareness. Well, I agree - that is an important part of leadership. You've got to know human behaviour to lead people. Emotional intelligence. But I don't know if you need to go 'undercover' to get that knowledge - you can learn about people wherever people are :)

At 3:57 am, Blogger Borscht said...

No doubt one can, S.

I don't think it's a function of capability -- yes, human beings technically can smoke all their lives and not get lung cancer.

But the likelihood of someone getting it is higher, certainly, after smoking packs and packs for years.

I point your attention to frequency.

A bus driver -- or someone dealing with the public -- is much more likely to know people simply because one deals with them more frequently.


At 9:52 am, Blogger Simon said...

I agree in principle that every person who sees in thesmselves a potential leader should become a student of humanity.

But observation is only part of it. There's also interaction. And sometimes that just happens while you're pursuing other passions.

I'm really thankful that, in my short life so far, I've met a wide range of people from those who live in fear of being deported and speak little English, to PhDs, to activists, to gullible people of all kinds of persuasions who are surprised that others would disagree with anything they say. These sorts of experiences can't be got by driving people around on a bus.

At 2:37 am, Blogger Borscht said...

Okay. I see what might be the holdup. Let's forget about the guardians of our roads and public modes of transport.

Here's an apt example: the particularly curious sight of hot dog vendors at a public event here in Toronto, or, even better - the newsagent -- for those cities that still have them posted outdoors.

I would tend to agree with you about bus drivers. By and large, the kinds of people who use public transport are of the lower income bracket -- people who don't have a car, don't drive, don't choose to drive, or perhaps they may even be environmentally-conscious. The 'cross-sectionality' of my argument might fall apart then -- but it doesn't invalidate it entirely.

Hot dog vendors -- if they have a prime spot outside of the cricket pitch or the rugby arena -- can see all manner of people approaching the stand to buy a sausage, or a beer.

And what a perspective on humanity that would be then, eh?

All I'm saying...the more you get out there. The more people you're going to come across and know as types. The more you're going to be able to make more accurate decisions -- let's not say run a Rich List or Fortune 500 company -- but at least to be able to make more accurate decisions about the people you come across every day.


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