By Dr Nick Hawkes
Introducing Deep Leadership
It’s an odd thing: Never have there been such strident calls in our time for leaders… yet, never have there been so many books on leadership. It seems as if a lot of books on leadership are failing to create the leaders the world needs.
I’m not surprised. Although some very good books on leadership have been written, too many are little more than motherhood statements systematised into lists to give the appearance of profundity. Others settle for teaching tricks and techniques that will help you manipulate others and achieve your goals (usually financial success). They teach methodologies on how to prioritise, how to win arguments, how to build a team, how to… how to… how to… They are useful, but I believe they fail at a very profound level. Leadership that truly transforms people’s lives and touches their history can only spring from the essence of who you are. This was the leadership shown by Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. It is what I call, "Deep Leadership". It is leadership that changes people’s character, culture and history. It is the leadership that achieves extraordinary goals.
One of the reasons so many books on leadership fail to transform is their central belief that leadership consists of techniques that can be taught. There is, of course, some truth in this. This book, for example, will teach you some of the best information that exists on current leadership principles. However, this book goes further because of a conviction: a conviction that great leadership can only come from people who have great character. In other words, Deep Leadership springs from who you are at the very deepest level -- a level that reflects what you believe about your identity, meaning and purpose.
No truly transformatory book on leadership can be written that doesn’t also look at the essence of meaning, worth and truth. As these concepts have become highly unfashionable in today’s secular world, it is little wonder that there is a dearth of heroic, selfless, transformatory leadership in our time. The fact is, if you rip truth, meaning and identity out of the heart of leadership, all that remains are tricks that will help you manipulate others. This is simply methodology. To settle for something so shallow is like learning the notes of a musical scale but failing to play the symphony.
If you aspire to do more, you will have to explore the essence of meaning. For the atheist (who is positive there is no God) and the agnostic (who is unsure whether God exists) this can be confronting and challenging. I want to acknowledge the truth of this and invite you -- whatever your belief system -- to come on a journey of discovery with me, for the profound level of leadership you are seeking is a worthy goal.
A 2015 survey by Deloittes of 3,300 organisations from 106 countries has identified "leadership" to be the most pressing issue of our time. Global companies have rated it as their number one concern for three years in a row. It seems that little progress is being made in what has become a perennial challenge. In business, politics, education and the church, the cry is the same: "Where can we find leaders who will take us into the future?"
The question has to be asked, why are so few companies making any progress in addressing the subject of leadership?
One of the main reasons is that leadership doesn't come from a vacuum. It comes, as I’ve said, from who you are. If you are a selfish person, you will be a selfish leader. If you are an ego-driven person, you will become an ego-driven leader. If you are a servant-hearted person, you will become a servant-hearted leader. The relevance of this is that if you want to fundamentally improve your leadership, you have to improve… well, you, actually.
Two factors will determine how you operate as a leader:
Who you are
What you know.
Both are important, but the most important when it comes to Deep Leadership is "who you are". You can change management practices quite easily by learning new techniques. But to change the essence of your leadership style will require something altogether more personal. It will require you to have some sort of understanding of your meaning, identity and purpose. This means that any wall that has been built between your leadership practice and your belief system will have to be dismantled. The two disciplines must speak to each other if you want to discover Deep Leadership—a leadership that truly transforms.
It would be arrogant to suggest that the factors behind Deep Leadership have only recently been understood. Profound wisdom is timeless and we can, and will, learn much from standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before.
One of the finest repositories of wisdom relevant to Deep Leadership is found in what is undoubtedly the greatest book ever to have been written, the Bible. It is not the purpose of this book to espouse Christianity but to teach a profound level of leadership. I mention the Bible only because it contains some timeless principles that undergird good leadership. It contains literature written over a thousand-year period that speaks about who we are and what our purpose is. One of the books within it, Proverbs, is a collection of wisdom sayings garnered over centuries from Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Middle East. As such, it is a repository of wisdom too good to ignore. Because it has been the bedrock of civilisation for two thousand years, its principles will be referred to when relevant.
The foundational conviction underlying this book is the innate dignity of human beings. Dignity has to have a foundation that guarantees a person’s worth; otherwise it is meaningless. The big question is, of course, What is the foundation of your belief system? Is that foundation strong enough to build truth and meaning on? If not, then finding such a foundation is a worthy life goal.
Many books on leadership contain stories of successful leaders. There is merit in this as they can teach us important aspects of leadership. Their danger comes from equating successful people with good leaders. This is not necessarily the case. Success can come about as a result of many factors -- and not all of these are to do with good leadership.
When I want to learn about good leadership, I look for people who have demonstrated an ability to motivate others to join them in working for a worthy goal -- people who can generate an enthusiastic volunteer mindset in those who work for them. I also look for leaders who invest in others so that those working for them thrive and become better people. That sort of leadership is Deep Leadership. It is the leadership that changes people’s history for the better.
This book summarises the very best teaching that currently exists on leadership and puts it in the deeper context of who you are and who you can become. It gives you the tools and training to be a good leader -- not just for today, but for life. Note: I say "life", not career. Leadership is not just something you put on like a business suit to go to work. Being a leader is something you are.
My hope is that you benefit greatly from "Deep Leadership".