Are You Leading Without Signing the Leadership Contract?

Many leaders today are going through the motions, not really understanding what is expected of them, nor personally commiting to leadership.  It's time to talk about the leadership contract.

A generation ago the employment contract was clear. We all understood the terms and conditions: you went to school, got good marks, and found yourself a job in a large organization.  If you remained loyal and did as you were told, and in the end the organization would take care of you until you retired.

Did you know there’s also a leadership contract? It also has its own terms and conditions, but these are not so clear.  Many leaders don’t even know they exist.  But they do and it’s time leaders become aware of them.

What’s been happening is a lot like when you’re surfing the Web. You’re trying to get your work done, and then a window pops up and you see a bunch of text outlining a series of terms and conditions. You know that if you don’t click agree and accept them, you won’t be able to move to the next page. So you click agree, without actually reading the terms.

This is exactly what’s happening today in organizations and what I think is wrong with leadership.

We’ve got people in leadership roles who have simply clicked “agree” without truly understanding the terms and conditions they have accepted.  Maybe they clicked agree to get the promotion, the higher salary, the perks.  In the end, that’s not what leadership is really all about. 

As a result, I see leaders every day showing up, trying to do their best, but not really clear about what’s expected of them as leaders.  So many go through the motions, never really fully committed to being leaders.   

I see many organizations I work with struggling with significant leadership gaps.  Many believe they are a result of lack of investment in development, a lack of a pipeline of leaders, or the difficulty of leading in a complex business environment. Those are all real issues, for sure. But I believe there’s something more fundamental going on.

We need to start having conversations about what leadership really entails - what the terms and conditions of leadership are. We need our leaders to consciously commit to leadership.  Why? Because it’s only getting more challenging and demanding, and organizations need leaders who know what they’re taking on and are deliberately deciding to lead.

That’s what the leadership contract is about. It’s a psychological contract you assume when you decide to be a leader.  One where you fully understand the terms and conditions, and are deeply committed to being the best leader you can be to help your company succeed. 

Are you in? To learn more about the leadership contract and what it means to you, read my The Leadership Contract.