Leadership is a fascinating subject that has elicited much debate among people of various disciplines through the ages. It is only since the 20th century that leadership received significant consideration from the academic community with social scientists attempting to investigate the right combination of attributes and behaviours that leaders must possess in order to influence people. Even after much research, scholars have still not assented to one definition of leadership. In fact, there are as many definitions of leadership as there are authors who have written about the subject.
One way to examine what leadership means is to consider its various aspects. We often think of one person portrayed as the hero that has authority over others and gets credited or blamed for the outcomes, within the confines of a command-and-control organizational structure. This notion of the giant that can carry the world on his shoulders satisfies our fascination for heroic figures. We enjoy going to the movies and immerse ourselves in the fantasies that their characters create, but, once outside the theatre, we would not expect nor believe that a normal human being could acquire super powers by assuming a certain persona. Yet, many of us view leadership through the heroic lens, a conception that clearly belongs in fiction.
The academic community may not be able to absolutely define leadership, but they can agree on a phenomenon. That is leadership is more than one person in a position. It’s a behaviour. It’s an attitude. It’s an ability. It’s spirituality. It’s the courage to stand up and make a difference. Leaders can be hidden gems that can be emerge at any level of their organizations or communities and make a difference by engaging others with authenticity, compassion and humility.
We, at Semiahmoo House Society, have great people in leadership functions. We have experienced and competent board members and senior staff that provide governance and leadership to the organization. In addition, we have other leaders who, by simply existing or purposely acting, make a difference in their community and influence change. As you probably guessed, these leaders include employees, volunteers, funders, suppliers, donors, sponsors, participants, self-advocates, professionals and other community members.
“Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.” This quote, which is one of my favourite from authors on leadership, echoes exactly the way our leaders, at Semiahmoo House Society, approach their roles in the community. Leading through the heart entails developing unwavering values such as honesty, integrity and empathy. These values, in turn, elicit behaviours that are anchored in trust, humility, caring, compassion and respect, thereby reverberating in a vigorous and purposeful culture of inclusion.
By Louise Tremblay, UNITI