Leadership Evolution

Earlier this year, I read an incredibly fascinating book about language. Word by Word – Kory Stamper – is an insiders look at how language evolves. Stamper is a lexicographer who opened my eyes to language being mysterious, moving, expanding audible symbols. 

One of my greatest delights is to look up a word in the dictionary or thesaurus. Like a piece of hard candy, I roll a word around in my brain and experience all of the flavors and textures it holds. I stand in the difference between a two dimensional postcard and actually being in or with a particular landmark.  

I’m still coming to terms with the fact that just because Merriam Webster lists a definition in its current edition doesn’t mean that a particular word has ALWAYS meant it or that it will ALWAYS mean it. (Cool fact: Webster’s Collegiate Edition is updated every year, but only undergoes a full edit – think Spring Cleaning – every ten to twelve years.)

This week (on a whim) I looked up  Leadership

  • 1: the office or position of a leader
  • 2: capacity to lead
  • 3: the act or an instance of leading
  • 4: LEADERS

In these definitions, I read position and power (maybe responsibility). This is the definition that I more or less grew up with. 

By the time I went to college, there was a service nuance being offered for leadership. 

Today, I observe an additional flavor of  personal agency in Leadership.

There are still those who cling onto older definitions of leadership – I’m in charge, I’m the boss, I led that or them.  Some people who are in traditional leadership roles have embraced individual and community leadership mindset. Some  are just entitled bullies. 

When I talk about leadership, I am thinking about impact and integrity. I am thinking about accountability and doing good. Your micro-leadership circle – the way you lead from your inside out – will lead to larger and larger circles of leadership that follow seasons of growth and rest. 

If we think about diagramming sentences (I told you I really loved it), what happens when Leadership is the subject? Or how about Leading as the predicate or action? What does Leadership do? Who or what leads? 

Where do you want to lead from? From the outside in? From the inside out? Or a combination of both? Not all of us are called or wired for highly visible leadership. That doesn’t make the work more or less than. Leadership that is done in secret is equally important and sometimes more powerful than the work of a CEO. 

One of the Leadership Flavors that I have been adding in my life is “play”. If the work doesn’t hold the possibility to make me giggle at least some of the time, I question my suitability and have concerns about the sustainability of my service.

What flavors do you bring to Leadership and Living?