Be The Leadership Catalyst

leadership catalyst“Leaders have to recognize what everyone is saying and also be the catalyst that will call out not what makes people happy but what needs to be done to move forward." - Dr. Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, Former Vice President of Uganda I recently wrote about a leadership lesson that came out of some comments by Dr. Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe at a leadership meeting during The Hunger Project’s Annual Fall Event Board of Directors meeting. This week I am writing about another lesson from Dr. Wandira. During some “casual remarks,” she made the statement at the top of this post. Far from inconsequential, it seems to me that she zeroed in on an essential distinction of leadership at any level. 

Dr. Wandira first addressed the importance of gathering input from all constituencies and points-of-view rather than just those that agree with you or seem to be in support of an outcome you favor. She next pointed to the fact that you must be willing to act knowing that some or many may be unhappy with your choices. She did not say ignore them and she didn’t say just proceed with your original agenda.

If you focus on each element of her seemingly simple statement, you will be able to lead powerfully. By powerfully, I am referring to one of my favorite quotes from Warren Bennis, “Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the ability to translate intention into reality and sustain it.”

At the core of her comment is the idea that you must call out what needs to be done to move forward. Implicit in that statement is the importance of “to move forward.” I have too often seen leaders push their own agenda without listening to input from the team, about what resources will be required to deliver the desired outcomes, and what time frame will be involved. When deadlines aren’t met or the project fails, the witch hunt begins.

If you recognize what people are saying, they will felt heard. It is not necessary for you as the leader to agree with everyone all the time. You don’t even have to make the team happy about your decision. It goes with the territory that you have to say no or choose alternatives regularly. The key is a quote from David Oxley, “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.”

If you give great credence to their input regarding the specifics of the work that will be required to achieve your goal, the resources that will be required, and the time that it will take, you will be respected, which is critical. With that analysis as your place to stand and the respect you have shown to the individuals involved, you will be able to mobilize them to move forward. You will be the catalyst.

If you remember your chemistry class, being a catalyst means that you will not be changed or consumed in the process. I prefer to say that you will not be worn out and you may, in fact, be changed and grow your leadership in a very inspiring way.