Leaders have agency because they chose to “opt-in” or to “opt-out,” to the systems, organizations, cultures, teams, they are selected to lead in.
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There’s no co-host on shorts.
These are two-to-four-minute observations, ideas, thoughts, or rants, about the literature, philosophy, psychology, and theology of leadership.
Because listening to me talk about leadership for two to four minutes is better than reading and trying to understand yet another business book.
Choosing to “op-out” is a choice.
Just as is choosing to “opt-in.”
Leaders choose to join, or not, systems, organizations, teams, and cultures, and then, they choose to either stay in those places or leave.
After being fundamentally a relational act, leadership is an act of repeated choices—many of which are habitual and relentlessly subconscious—that drives a leader, and their team, toward an end goal.
Leaders who are loathe to admit that they have agency, and that they have responsibility, are merely managers and supervisors of a process and of people…
…but they aren’t leaders.
Leaders know that decisions aren’t always either/or, black or white.
Leaders know that decisions have multivariant consequences in any given situation.
Leaders know that the decisions they have to make about the direction of a team, a culture, or an individual, have short, middle, and long-term consequences.
Leaders know that no matter what decisions they make, “even the wisest cannot see all ends.”
And leaders know that, at the end of all the thinking, making the “call” is all on them.
Agency in decision making, accepting consequences for choices made, engaging with accountability to the fullest extent, and being driven by neither avoiding blame, or accepting credit, are the characteristics of leaders that other leaders seek to emulate.
This is important to understand, as philosophical and strategic as it may sound to your ears right now for many reasons, but two stand out most starkly right now, at this time in human history:
Number one, if the engineers, researchers, programmers, and other “wizards of smart” are to be believed, humanity is about three to five years away from experiencing a technological turning that will rival the rise of the Internet for disrupting lives, economies, and even the very social fabric itself.
Number two, if followers continue to grow in autonomy and power over their own lives, they are going to want to be controlled less, and be collaborated with more. Otherwise, there is little remaining need for putting in labor to a system that seems to only exist to turn human effort into the raw power that drives economic and social engines.
One can argue—and many will upon listening to this—that the two reasons above have always been true and that the only difference between the lived “now” and recorded “then” is that “back in the day” the speed of the change was slower and more manageable.
Which gets us back around to “choosing to ‘opt-in’ or choosing to ‘opt-out.’”
Leaders make choices, that begin with them and their perception of autonomy, agency, and power, about what system they choose to engage with, and about what games they choose to play.
Leaders don’t whine, complain, or stubbornly, passively choose to ‘opt-out’ when the game they picked is going against them.
Leaders instead either quietly, winsomely, and compassionately quit the game when the rules are changed.
Leaders flip over the board entirely and create whole different games, with different rules entirely.
All by engaging and using their own, hard-won, agency and autonomy, and power, rather than giving it up to other people in the vain hope that…well…
…somehow, “it” will “all ‘work out’” in ‘the end.’”
No more leadership accidents.