The word “leadership” is thrown around a lot. We’ve been talking about it a fair amount on this podcast as well. But what does that mean? For many people, it means a formal position or title, but is that really leadership? We’re going to look at what leadership means to a couple of people at our company who have different roles and experiences to see what we can find about the ways we think about leadership.
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Hi, everyone. This is Addison Berry, and you're listening to the Osio Labs podcast. The show that explores the question,"how can we create sustainable businesses that care for people and make the world a better place?" On today's episode, I'm joined by my colleagues, Amber Matz, and Blake Hall. This is episode number seven, looking at the question,"what is leadership"? The word leadership is thrown around a lot. We've been talking about it a fair amount on this podcast as well it sort of keeps coming up when you talk about business. But what does that actually mean to people? For a lot of people, it means a formal position or a title, and from my perspective, that's dead wrong. That doesn't necessarily have anything to do with leadership. We're going to look at what leadership means to a couple people from our company who have different roles and different experiences with leadership and management and the like. So let's start with the fundamental question of what is leadership to you, the two of you at least, like what does that word mean to you? Go for it. The silence is deafening.Blake:
The opposite of what we're doing right now. That's my definition.Amber:
Listening to others, waiting for someone else to take theBlake:
Yeah, exactly. I probably would've had a different definition a few days ago, but I cheated'cause I knew this podcast was coming up and I started reading Brene Brown's Dare to Lead this Weekend. So that's like front of mind for me. And I, I love the definition she uses in that book. So I'm gonna cheat and use that. She says it's anybody who takes responsibility for finding potential in people or processes and has the courage to develop that potential. And I think that's a little different than like, a while ago we talked about Abby Wambach's book, Wolf Pack and, and she sort of has a slightly different definition, but I think it still fits in the spirit of this. And I like the idea that she centers leadership around both people and ideas, and I think they're both important because you can be a leader of people or you can be, you know, a thought leader as hokey as that term sounds. But I think they're both the people that, that do a good job of developing and shepherding along either people or ideas are the people that I kind of look at as leaders. It's somebody that cares about not just the results, but like the actual process and how you go about making a difference. That's really interesting.Amber:
I think I've been conflating leadership with two things. Managing. Mm-hmm. And herding cats. And cats being a metaphor for. People, people online specifically, where you're just kind of out there trying to facilitate something, whether that's a discussion or a meeting or a task resolving an issue, you know, in like in open, in the open source world or whatever. And you're putting yourself out there, you're trying to facilitate. Some sort of moving something forward and you're trying to encourage participation and you're trying to provide a space that's welcoming to others to participate in whatever process you're trying to facilitate. So that's kind of how my sense of leadership has changed. I think I used to think of it in more terms, like the, the quotes you just mentioned. And I've just gotten a lot more pragmatic about it over the years. And it's, it's a little, it's less romantic. It's, it's very practical and and so that's kind of why I, I don't think of leadership so much anymore. Like, I don't think of it in sort of these, maybe grander aspirational terms because it just feels like, A task, it just feels like, yeah, I need to do this. I need to facilitate this. I need to manage this process or this set of tasks or, or whatever. And so maybe that's not leadership, maybe that's just management and herding cats. So maybe that's why confused about my own identity as a leader is, maybe I have the wrong definition. Maybe I'm thinking about it. Not necessarily the wrong way, but maybe not in a complete way. Yeah.Blake:
I act, I actually think that's a much more mature view of it, to be honest. I think, I have a young daughter and I think when she thinks about leadership, it's probably more traditional. Like who are the people in charge authority? Um, authority, right, right. Mm-hmm. And, and I think historically that has tended to be sort of like a. You either have the traits of a leader or you don't. And it's something that's like innate in your personal character. And I think the reality is that it's that leader, real leadership is actually much more a learned skill and something based in practical application and hard work and difficult conversations and all of the, the messiness that needs to happen to make mm-hmm. Progress. Mm-hmm. So I think thinking of leadership that way is actually, More realistic and healthier than, Hmm. Any other type of view of it as being like an authority figure? Interesting.Addi:
Well, I mean, yeah, it's an interesting question of the difference between leadership and management and those terms are used completely interchangeably, in our society and very often are purposely conflated. And again, always often linked to this concept of authority versus somebody earning leadership or somebody just being a leader, whether or not anybody has given them the authority to do so. I think for me, the way I look at leadership is when I'm looking at someone else, not myself in that role. But when I look to other people that I look to as leaders, I think of people who I respect who've earned my respect, and therefore I am influenced by them. I've sort of given them the right to influence me. And so I guess it's funny going into this, I was thinking like, what is my definition of leadership? And I was thinking about like, and I'm like, wait, wait. Some people think me as a leader, so what does that mean from my perspective in that role? And I guess from, that perspective, from me being a leader, my job is to earn respect. And there are different ways that I am a leader and there are certainly ways that I am not a leader. And I think that leadership within our team changes continually based on knowledge, experience skills. Like who do I trust? Who do I trust in this moment for this conversation and what needs to happen and whose influence weighs most heavily on me in terms of moving forward. And because I'm in a management role, many people default to looking to me to provide that, and I kind of get a free pass. For people to assume that I have that power. But like the truth of that, at the end of the day, depending on like in a, in a team call when we're talking about a particular topic, I mean, Joe might be the leader, Amber might be the leader you know, really the person who is really familiar with what's happening and really has the ideas and that I'm like, yes, what they're saying. Rings true for me and I wanna support them doing this thing because I believe in it. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So I guess for me, that's what leadership is and it's less about management, it's less about getting tasks done. I think people can be, inspirational and, and cultivate. Ideas and people, but they may not be very good managers. They may not be good task people. They may not be good cat herds even. Right. But a good leader will get those people will have those people to help execute the things that need to happen. Mm-hmm. Instead of trying to do it all themselves. So it's interesting, Amber, you're talking about like doing cat herding. Mm-hmm. Um, and like looking at sort of your role, sort of trying to manage things, how do you look at other people that you look to as leaders? Like what is it, what is it about them that makes you feel like they are a leader to you? At leastAmber:
I look for people who. Can discern the truth in a situation. So that's, that's what I'm looking for. If I'm looking up to someone, I'm, I'm sensing that they know the truth about the situation and they're telling the truth about the situation. They're privy to something, some information, or they have access to people that. Gives them the perspective that they need. And I, and there's, and I have some trust in them to lead. Right. So that's what I look for is people who, who can discern the truth about the reality of the situation. And most of the time I feel like I can manage my thing, my responsibilities, and myself. But there are certain complicated situations, you know, whether that's in the world at large or in my job, or whatever it is I'm involved with. Where I recognize I don't have all of the information, I don't have access to the people know I don't have that. And so that's what I look for in a leader is someone who is telling the truth about the reality of a given topic or situation. And who's telling it? Who's telling and who's telling that truth?Addi:
I feel like, just from this conversation, I mean, leadership is about trust. Mm-hmm. Right? And you can't make people trust you. So, and there's this thing, so there's authority. And I'm gonna do what the authority figure says because if I don't, I'm likely to be punished or there's some other negative consequence to me not doing that. Versus here's somebody that I trust and I'm going to do what they say because I believe them. Mm-hmm. And I think that this is gonna be a good thing for me and whoever else is involved. And so those are like two distinctly different paths for. Compliance or, you know, following mm-hmm. Leaders can't, from my perspective of it, you can't make, you can't become a leader. You can't make yourself be a leader. Mm-hmm. All you can do is do what you do and then people will follow you or they will not, they're either going to believe you and trust you or not. And I think that's what'sAmber:
challenging for me We're been working for this company. You know, we're distributed, we've been working from home. The work that I do in the open source space is all online, and I agree with you completely like your, how you are a leader is determined by who you're influencing and who's following you. And it's really hard to see that in the online space when you're in an online community. And I feel like I have a few people that I interact with and I consider them more colleagues. I have no idea who I'm influencing, who's, mm-hmm. Making a choice based on something that I've said or done. In the online space I have no feedback and it's so, such a different situation from when I was younger, you know, 20 years ago. I am. You know, in a, in a group, and I'm leading some youth and they're like literally in front of me looking up, looking to me. Like I can see their faces there, literally, physically, they're looking to me for a, you know, direction. And it's such a, a different situation now to, you know, 20 years later and, and having spent the last 10 or 15 years of that. Mostly online. And and so I, I think that's why my, definition or how I think of myself as a leader has changed. I have a hard time thinking of myself as a leader because of that, because I, it, it just, it's hard for me to know if I'm influencing anyone, or to what degree or. If I'm being effective or not. And so it's, it's kind of this lack of a feedback loop, you know, that I think inhibits my personal development as a leader or inhibits me from even thinking of myself as a leader or working on that. Mm-hmm. Because there's this lack of feedback. And so if I guess I could seek that out, I guess I could be more intentional about that. But, I haven't been, you know, and so, mm-hmm. That's why I think of it in really like kind of practical terms, you know? Right. Like Right managey manage in a more ofAddi:
a management sense. Right. Because that again, it's like this stated thing and like if you're leading a group, right, and you've been told you are the leader of the group and the group has been told you are the leader of the group, then you are then, then you are. Right. But again, that's getting back to authority. Everybody's been told that this is a situation. So yeah, it's interesting like that because it's funny you say like, I don't know who I'm influencing or how much, or if I'm influencing anybody. And I guess for me, I feel like we all influence people around us every day. Mm-hmm. You cannot interact in the world without having an impact. And I think that's something that gets lost very easily. So I guess I just view this is a thing that's always happening. But I also get that feedback loop thing is difficult because you're Well, I don't know. I mean then this gets to like if you are not a leader, does that change how you behave in a group? So at work I am an authority figure and I try to also be a leader. So that's very much a role. I feel the presence of when I'm put my work pants on and then in other aspects of my life, it's like, well, I mean, am I the leader of this group right now in this moment? I don't really think that, I don't feel that that's not how I'm, you know, or this other person is sort of, I wanna do what they're doing, so I'm gonna just, I'm gonna be a follower in this scenario. With these people. And so I'm curious about context as well in terms of getting a lot of feedback in certain contexts and not getting feedback in other contexts. does that change your feelings of leadership? Which I guess from from Amber's perspective, we are hearing Absolutely. Blake, I'm curious, like what do you think about that? It's like switch a perspective.Blake:
Yeah, for sure. I think context is hugely important when it comes to how I think about leadership. I probably have the opposite view, where at work I don't particularly feel like much of a leader, necessarily, certainly not consistently, I would say. and then a lot of things in my, in my personal life that I'm passionate about. Part of why I'm passionate about it is because I care a lot about, you know, whether it's golf or something else. And, and I'm so obsessive about it that other people sort of assume that I have more information than they do. which kind of puts, puts you in a leadership role. I think in addition to the context piece, there's also another aspect that we're kind of touching on, where sometimes leadership is about getting things done. And pushing a task forward. And sometimes leadership is about the relationship building and the shepherding along of people. Mm-hmm. And those are sort of two different aspects of it that are really context dependent, I think. Mm-hmm. I'm personally more comfortable with leadership when it's more of a relationship building type of thing, and probably less comfortable when it's more task oriented. And I don't know if that's just. My, my historic roles at work or if it's a personality difference or where I choose to invest energy. But, those are the parts of, of being a leader that I'm sort of more interested in and probably more comfortable with. Those two things are probably related, but, yeah, exactly. Yeah. I think it's a different way to think about it too.Addi:
I agree with that completely. And can I just add, like mm-hmm. The, just thinking about, I mean, I was just thinking about like a Drupal con situation where okay, maybe at one point for 45 minutes I'm at the podium and I'm speaking, and that's a sort of leadership activity. but then later in the, in the hallway That gives me, you know, people can approach me or I can approach others, and I switch, my context has changed. And now I'm more in relationship building mode and, and, and hearing from people and, and talking to them and seeing how I can introduce them to other people. Make connections or just see, you know, what, what their needs are. So I, I'm thinking about it more just even during this conversation, I'm thinking like, you're either a leader and maybe, and that activity can change depending on your context or you're a bystander and you're completely just, you may be physically present in a space, but you're not. You're just there and you're not doing anything intentional. And, and so I, I guess I do think of myself as a leader because contrasted to a bystander, which I am definitely not, I'm always engaging in some way or thinking about something, you know, like I have that mindset. Or I'm doing something that's, that's intentional in, in a certain context, which also is exhausting, but is like, that's, that's my mindset in especially in a, in a group situation.Addi:
So we're getting close to time, so I wanna start wrapping up and with, with that, what I want to ask is we've, I mean, we've talked about scenarios where don't feel like a leader, do feel like a leader. Do you want to be a leader? It's like, and again, is that like a contextual thing? Like, I want to be a leader here, but I really don't, actively don't wanna be a leader in these other contexts. Is that a thing or is it like, I would just like to be a leader more and have more agency in that way or something. generally in your life, How, where, how do you fall on that scale?Blake:
I will say there are certainly times where I don't have any interest in any sort of leadership whatsoever. When it comes to parts of my life. Like things like the p t o at my daughter's school, I, I'm happy to not engage with if I don't have to. But for me it largely depends on how I'm gonna define leadership. Right. And I think if we're talking about Being actively engaged in relationship building and pushing along a process or project that I care about. If, if being engaged in that and helping things move forward is being a leader, then absolutely. I'm more interested in improving those skills for the things that I'm mm-hmm. Actively invested in and involved with. But also, like Amber's saying, it can be really tiring to do that all of the time. So I think it's important to have some things that you're not quite as mm-hmm. Driven by that. Let you unplug and and tune out.Amber:
Yeah. I would like to be more discerning about what I'm i, like I said, like it's sort of my default mode is to take charge and like I said, that can be exhausting because then I just end up super busy and the things that I would really like to be doing are left by the wayside. So I. I would like to improve my leadership discerning skills, like mm-hmm. I would like to be more intentional and set boundaries and be more choosy and and the places where I would like to maybe transition out of, I would, you know, like to be more of a train the trainer sort of a role, If anything, like facilitate other people stepping up. That's what I would like to improve on is not spreading myself so thin.Addi:
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Protecting energy is, I mean, yeah, just generally a thing that we all need help with in the society, I think for sure. I will say for myself that I. Being in roles of authority doesn't require leadership. Mm-hmm. but it is a responsibility that I feel particularly at work that I do need to do that. But it's not, you know, it's like a separate, it's not a separate thing, but it's a, it's a, it's a different bucket of, of intent and energy than my authority role is. Like I could be a CEO all day long and not touch leadership in my mind. But I feel the obligation to it. And, and the desire for it, I mean in the sense of I want to cultivate the kind of company I wanna work for. Hmm. And so in order to do that, I have to do that, right? Like, I have to be part of that process. I can't just step, sit back and assume everything's gonna go the way I want it to go. But then, yeah, there are other aspects of my life where I do want to rest. And also honestly, like, there're just places where I wanna be inspired by someone else. Yeah. Like, I want to,'cause that's an exciting energy too. Mm-hmm. You know? And like, that's such a cool thing to find a person or a group of people typically that really just have such cool stuff going on that really inspires me. Mm-hmm. And then I'm like, yes, I wanna do what you're talking about. Tell me, you know, tell me what to do here or show me mm-hmm. The way that's a super regenerating thing. So I feel like I need both. Right. I need to be, I need to have that, which helps give me energy for taking on the times mm-hmm. Where people are looking to me for that. Mm-hmm. You know, so it's like an, an energy flow that kind of needs to go back and forth. So I think we need to be both leaders and followers in our lives and find like the rhythm and the balance with that. Mm-hmm. Because you also don't wanna just be a follower all the time and never lead. Mm-hmm. Or maybe some people do, I don't know. But I feel like that that creates its own different kind of, of, of stagnant energy or something. Yeah. So being able to follow others but then, you know, turn around and be like, Hey, I've got this really cool thing, and, you know, other people get inspired by you. It's just like, it's such a, such a beautiful rhythm. So I think having, hmm, both is super important in our lives.Amber:
Yeah. Well said.Addi:
Cool. Well, we should probably wrap it up. I'd be curious to revisit this conversation like in a year. Mm. Because we keep having these. Podcasts and we keep having these conversations and we're reading books and we're talking and thinking about new things. Right? And so it's like having this conversation now and I know Amber and I just did Who Do We Choose To Be? Which brought up a lot of this Yeah. You know, leadership thing. And then, Dare to Lead is another book sort of on our list. And, I think we should probably do that podcast relatively soon and then keep having this conversation because it's the kind of thing that I think people just don't really think about very much. Try to even define or talk about unless you are in management or a position of authority. Right? Right. It's like once you're put in a position of authority, now you need to learn about leadership. And I feel like that's a little backwards, right? Like we should be having people thinking and talking about leadership, and then those people can move into positions of authority. That makes way more sense to me, so, mm-hmm. I'm, I'm super curious for us to keep having this conversation and come back to this, you know, a year from now after we kind of keep, keep bringing it up and don't let it sort of float away like it often does, so. Mm-hmm. So thanks for, for sharing both of your, your insights on that.
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