Lead As If No One’s Watching

Last week I posted this rather simplistic comment on Twitter and LinkedIn and was surprised by the strong, positive response. I’m not sure if that’s a comment on social media or the power of a simple idea, but it has me thinking. It’s obviously a take-off on the LuluLemon-esque line that is actually a quote from a fellow named William W. Purkey:

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,

Love like you’ll never be hurt,

Sing like there’s nobody listening,

And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Regardless of the source, there is something about the concept that resonates with those of us who are intrigued by the ideas of complexity theory and, as Kester Brewin suggests, “The advantage of complexity theory is that it provides us with a model of leadership that has very little power, and this naturally fits very well with the traditions of servant leadership.”

In a very literal sense, the servant leader is not visible because they are so intentionally “other-centered.” They elevate followership to a much more important role on the leadership relationship: leaders and followers influence each other, but in the end it is the follower that is elevated.

This draws us close to the idea of “invisible leadership.” In their excellent research study, The Power of Invisible Leadership, Hickman and Sorenson demonstrate that shared purpose rather than the charisma of the individual leader is the compelling force that drives an organization forward.

I believe that a clear articulation of purpose, of the “why” of an organization, is so often what is missing. Once that purpose has been defined based on the input of many voices and is articulated in a clear and compelling way, then both leaders and followers can submit themselves to that purpose and no one needs the spotlight on themselves.

They can truly dance as if nobody’s watching.


Peter_bio2Peter Dickens

Peter Dickens is passionate about leadership and change. He helps people and organizations that serve others to revitalize their leadership and ministry at tyndale.ca/leadership. Follow Peter on Twitter (@Dr_PeterDickens).



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