Leadership can be defined as the intentional exercise of influence on others. Your leadership style, your leadership signature, is a journey shaped by moments large and small. Some have obvious significance in the midst of their unfolding. Some are more subtle in their implications and previews of what type of leader you will become. If you were asked to turn to an early and vivid memory of your leadership journey, what would that be and what would it have foretold?

One of mine involves a playground swing. Here is the rest of the story…

I did not think of myself as a leader while growing up. I can recall more reasons not to jump out front than I can encouragement to take the lead. I did not have the research framework and vocabulary then to form a hypothesis of whether I was born to lead, could grow to lead or was destined to follow. 

 I remember one day in the courtyard of the public housing projects where I spent my first 8 years when I took the initiative to jump out front that did not go as planned. To provide more context, I looked up to my older brothers and tried to hang with them and not be left behind like a typical younger brother. On this day, the gang was huddled together because “Bobby Boom Boom Bully” had once again claimed all the swings in the courtyard. My brother was inciting our gang to do something this time, to use the strength of numbers and the element of surprise to jump Bobby Boom Boom Bully from behind and…I don’t remember the rest of the plan because I took the initiative being one of the youngest and smallest of the group to get a head start. Off I sped, focused on the mission of jumping our neighborhood, older, stronger bully from behind. Knowing that at any moment the faster and older members of our gang would soon over take the initiative I displayed to get a head start, I leapt a few feet from Bobby B3’s back, looked over my shoulder and saw the rest of our gang still in the huddle looking at me like I had lost my mind! I landed on Bobby’s back and he took the initiative to convert my landing point to my head on the ground! Lessons learned: Wait for the full plan? A jump start is not always wise? There is strength in numbers? ……

2 thoughts on “A Preview of Leadership: What’s Your Story

  1. Dr Greg, I looked at your site as THE consultant on our new APA task force merchandising applied psychology and to see what someone other than RHR, of which I was a Partner for 10 years, has to say on leadership. A pretty site, even poetic and in the vain of a few Jesuits who came to our NYC meetings in the ’60s, to teach us their philosophy of management. Since TRUMP influences, leadership has got to be more than the niceties of such words as “influence” and may contain performance goals that are shared, delegation to people who are qualified hires, executives who bring needed resources & coordination to subordinates, who are capable of making decisions but first share inputs from those who are specialists&/or have ownership in execution. As I recall it at age 85, we either did coaching to our client the President, built around him, substituted for him….or, we attempted to first evaluate the character of the person we wanted to develop and who potentially also wanted more accountability.

    I am envious of your apparent style which is likely found in the original founders of RHR. Success to you on your task force to enhance in commerce and human interaction the practical values of today’s very diverse cadre of Applied Psychologists.

    1. Dr. Herb,
      Thank you for your response and for your feedback. I appreciate the opportunity to add a diverse perspective to APA efforts to position the application of psychology in a way that expands the access, scope and impact of that we all attempt to do in this field. Though we did not directly overlap at RHR, it is indeed a pleasure to recognize our connections. There is probably even a connection between what those Jesuits shared in the 60’s with what I was absorbing in the neighborhoods of Cleveland at that time.

      We have indeed missed opportunities to apply the science, practice, art and magic of psychology to increasing the positive effectiveness of leaders at all levels and in every context. Do we actually need to directly experience someone or something to have a credible hypothesis about them?

      I am glad that my “style” comes through in the website and my writings. I would not however attribute it to the original founders of RHR. If I were to draw a direct lineage from academia and professional consulting, I would be clearly more influenced by the David McClelland and McBer & Co. Still, I am a combination of influences still on a never ending journey defining my own signature.

      Best of effort to you.

      Greg Pennington, Ph.D.

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