I Am A Leader: Don Christian’s Thoughts about Leadership

Don Christian

Welcome to the I Am A Leader blog series, featuring leaders who make a difference. Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Don Christian, Dean of the College of Business at Concordia University TexasDr. Christian received his Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. Check out his Thinking about Leadership blog here

A leader is…

What constitutes great leadership?  What do leaders do?  How do leaders behave?  I have been considering these types of questions for many years now, and still wonder if I have come close to having the right answers.  In The Concordia MBA classes I teach (most recently Leadership: Engaging the Community) we wrestle with the multiple (and I mean MULTIPLE) paradoxes that are inherent in the leadership role.  Just when I think I can say with some type of certainty and clarity “A leader is…” I realize that the opposite is also true.  Here are a few recent examples:

  • A leader is driven: A leader is humble (ala Jim Collins’ Level 5 Leadership)
  • A leader has a vision: A leader facilitates the group to shape their vision
  • A leader knows what to do: A leader seeks the answers from others
  • A leader knows everyone’s name: A leader sets the stage for everyone to know each other’s names

The beauty of paradoxes is that they are not either/or but a both/and (just ask my colleagues about my insistence on the “both/and” in our conversations).  The problem with paradoxes is that they are a both/and, thus they seldom lend exact answers to the issue at hand.  I think it was Albert Einstein who made the comment that “the sign of maturity is the ability to hold two competing thoughts in one’s mind at the same time and not go crazy.”  So maybe that’s what a leader really is…one who has the ability to hold those two thoughts at the same time…keep communicating those thoughts to a group of people…help others wrestle with the two competing thoughts as they work through an issue…and bring together the best of both thoughts to come to some type of action that moves the group ahead.

So as I sit here at my desk and prepare for an important meeting that will take place in a few days, I am faced with the following paradox: Do I go into this meeting with the idea that a leader is someone who has the courage to name the elephant in the room OR do I go into this meeting with the idea that a leader is someone who knows how to act politically and gather allies?  In other words, do I speak up or stay quiet?  For me several things come into play as I consider this paradox:

  • This is not an either/or – it is a both/and
  • This must be carefully thought out and well worded
  • I really have to wait for the moment to see how I react and how others react
  • It takes courage to do both
  • I have to be comfortable with the reality that I don’t know the answer now…and I may not know the answer at the time

So what is a leader?  My latest definition is that a leader is one who is able to steward the power given them to influence others toward accomplishing a shared vision.  And then again, I might be wrong…

A special thank you to Don Christian for sharing his insights with us today! Stay tuned every Friday as the I Am A Leader blog series continues. Please share this blog post via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter using the #iamaLEADER hash tag!

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