As noted by INSEAD in 2002, leadership is the most studied aspect of all human behavior. A simple search of Amazon.com reveals over 3,000 books published on leadership last year and over 12,000 in the last five years. However, the majority of our knowledge about leadership is focused on the ivory towers of our corporations, the hallowed grounds of our nations’ capitals, and the rank-and-file of our armed forces.

What about the other leaders, the everyday leaders? What about our stay-athome moms, our small business owners, our students, our doctors, and our educators? This study, titled Everyday Leadership, was commissioned by a team of CCL faculty and staff charged with exploring future markets, products, and services for the Center for Creative Leadership. The study attempts to better understand these non-traditional leaders by gaining additional insights into their personal lives, their thoughts and theories about the practice of leadership, and their hopes for the future.

Over a six-month period late in 2005, 31 respondents completed an hourlong telephone interview focusing on aspects of their personal life, their approach to leadership, and their potential future needs. The 31 respondents were broken up into five categories:

  • Educators
  • Atypical Leaders
  • Public Sector
  • Professional Services
  • Small Business Owners

THE DEFINITION OF LEADERSHIP IS STABLE

The definition of leadership (though diverse among the sample) hit on some key aspects that positively align with the work CCL has been doing with business leaders for over 30 years. Specifically, the concepts of vision, change, focusing resources, inspiration, and mentoring were clearly articulated. Thus, we have resources that could be of use to these other markets.

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING IS A KEY SKILL NOW AND IN THE FUTURE

Consistent with the findings of the 2006 Changing Nature of Leadership report, interpersonal openness and building relationships are key skills for everyday leaders. Additionally, organization skills (time and project management) rose to the top as well. What is driving these results? Based on work with business leaders, we know that rapid change and uncertainty are two major forces.

LEADERSHIP BOOKS ARE NOT ON THE RADAR

Over 70 percent of our respondents have read either a “non-traditional” leadership book (self-help or memoir/fiction) or none at all. Additionally, when we examined the magazine choices, typical leadership magazines like Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, and BusinessWeek were rarely mentioned as preferred reading material.

BUILD A COMPELLING STORY AND THEY WILL COME

When we probed further into why they chose their most-memorable books, it was because the story included struggle, compelling characters, was relevant to their personal journey, and provided further education. We must begin looking at alternative publication options if we are going to pique these everyday leaders’ interest.

GREAT LEADERS ARE A THING OF THE PAST

When asked whom they revere as a great leader, the vast majority of responses focused on past political leaders, dating even back to Lincoln and Washington. Very few of these individuals mentioned leaders in their own fields or within their current organizations. How could CCL help to amplify the presence of great current leaders?

PROFILES TELL A DIVERSE STORY

The profiles of each everyday leader category tell of some commonalities but a great deal of diversity. We will have to practice mass customization to meet them where they live.

About the Author:

André Martin a former enterprise associate with the Center for Creative Leadership, is currently the Leadership Development Director for Mars, Inc. André holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from St. Louis University.

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