If you start talking about leadership, you may get several different reactions; everything from eye-roll to serious looks. Regardless of the guru you follow or the school where you took leadership training, there is one key question that remains.
Will your leadership ability be deep or wide?
If you’re thinking about big organizations with high headcount and multiple lines of business, you are thinking about wide leadership influence. This includes large communities or tribes where your influence can be experienced.
However, if you think in terms of the immediate circle of your peers and direct reports, then you are thinking deep leadership.
There is not really a right or wrong to either of these two schools of thought.
Wide Leadership Thinking
As the name implies, wide leadership reaches far. The edges are way out there. You might be hoping to influence or impact a large population, whether that’s within your company or inside an industry.
Your idea of a vision has a really big scale to it. You are wanting to leave behind or accomplish making a big difference.
Ironically, a great leader with a wide vision isn’t necessarily thinking about numbers of followers. Instead, they focus on the need. Their heart centers on service.
The best picture is that of the pebble cast on a calm pool of water. The place where the stone hits the water causes ripple effects that have energy enough to reach the far edges of the pond or lake. If the pool was perfectly still, a single stone will create ripples that are seen the whole distance beyond the center of that circle.
Great leadership creates ripples of influence and impact in the hearts and minds of the ones who stand in the outer bands of the circle surrounding the leader.
The Deep End
Deep leadership is limited in numbers. It is a more personalized experience, dealing with a few.
In business, we think of it as our “direct reports”, those who are assigned directly to us with whom we have a day to day contact.
Mentoring someone is a deep leadership happening. The leader will be pouring wisdom, encouragement, and experience into the individual, one on one.
Deep leadership impact will be life changing for the recipient. Perhaps the influence will be limited to just a few nuggets of truth or learning, but the substance will be powerful. The person receiving the lesson will be forever changed.
The Best Do Both
The best leaders I have ever known or studied do both. I’ve tried being that kind of leader in what I do. I’ve tried teaching it to others.
When you take on a position of responsibility, you have to make the team work first. Your influence should be the deep kind. You must feed and nurture those assigned to you or hired by you. It is up to you to explain the vision and purpose.
You’ll be doing individual development of those around you.
As the team becomes productive, you can shift your focus to the wider perspective.
Your business may have many layers and your team is just a part of the bigger picture. Your influence as a leader can be felt by others outside your team. You do this by supporting other units or departments.
If you own your own business, you have to get it up and running smoothly (deep leadership) before you reach too far outside into the community to make yourself known (wide leadership).
I could go on about this and maybe will in another installment later. But I need to interject something.
I had this article in my writing queue for some time. My calendar was clicking by and my process to go to press was running normally. Then it was time to polish this one off and prep it for release on Sunday, April 12.
It hit me.
That Date is Easter.
Then it hit me again. What better an example of deep and wide influence than the story we know about Jesus’s life.
I intentionally do not force my faith and beliefs on you my reader. Nor will I start now. But please allow me a moment to reflect on this, a very significant holy date for many.
The story of Jesus began with him assembling a small group, twelve to be exact. His intent was to go deep with teaching, mentoring and messaging. He attempted to dispel many teachings of the day and bring better clarity on the subject of God and Heaven.
The disciples as this group later would be called, didn’t always get it at first. It took many tries to explain and demonstrate the principles to them. They eventually did get it.
Then focus turned to a wider audience. A gathering in a town square, a following on a hillside. The pebble was thrown into the lake and ripple it did.
The twelve are gone. Yet, the legacy created 2000 years ago remains.
I don’t judge your beliefs. None of this is an attempt to sway you otherwise. Yet for those who do believe this story and these teachings, the model is perfect.
Leadership delivered deeply to a few had impact far and wide on many. Today, we as leaders can do much the same.
OK most of you will not start a movement or create a global cause. But you can be the leader your team and your community need right now.
I encourage you to reflect in this Easter season.
Where does your leadership stand right now? Deep, wide or both?