What is it that leaders are leading? People? Profits and results? Processes? Do they lead toward empowerment or power? Should they respect diversity and encourage the sometimes messy complexity that arises from its connections; or should they appreciate order and advocate conformity to standards? Is there really one best way to lead, or do different people need different forms of leadership?
By Lynn Redenbach and Debra Pearce-McCall
Perhaps, since we find leaders in every human sphere and in most human interactions, we all need varying forms of leadership in differing contexts. If that is true, can we still define any common factors found in optimal leadership, in all its manifestations?
Even the question of who is a leader has a multi-faceted answer. Sometimes a leader is in a designated leadership role (e.g., CEO or director), and sometimes a leader emerges from a group interaction, or in a specific situation. Often some aspects of leadership are shared among all the people involved, whether this pervasive leadership (Love & Estanek, 2004) is recognized or not. In all relational professions, like coaching, healing, or educating, practitioners are called upon to exercise leadership toward growth and health. And we are all challenged daily to be leaders to ourselves and people around us, when we regulate nervous systems and support human potential through conversations and actions. In the political sphere, we clearly have some contradictory ideas about what kind of leadership humanity needs to face upcoming global crises. In moments big and small, the key question of the day is: can we define and implement ways to lead that are supported by what we know scientifically about human and relational well-being—ways that promote health for people, communities, institutions, organizations, and the planet? Using the lens of interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB), we see the answer: Yes.