My Exhaustion with the Numbered Leadership Lists
by Stephen Ingalls, President & CEO
Those of you who subscribe to one or more leadership/thinker distribution lists likely receive dozens of e-mails weekly on a wide variety of leadership, development, or training topics. If you’re intent on lifelong learning as we are, you, no doubt, read the summaries and/or highlighted articles, print or PDF select references, and file the information away, both figuratively and literally, awaiting the next opportunity to use your newfound knowledge. We are no exception.
However, across all those subscription-based articles, the ones I find least useful and most tiresome are those that are “numerically based” – “The 10 Best…”, “Five Tips to…”, “The 4 Things to Do…”
Anyone who’s actually practiced (not just studied) leadership more than a day or two should be quick to point out that it (leadership) CANNOT be reduced into convenient lists. And what’s the probability that solutions to complex human interrelationship and behavior issues will present themselves in lists of even numbers or groups that are multiples of 5? Further, to get to these convenient numbers, there’s almost always a blinding flash of the obvious – “breathe regularly while leading others.” Insulting.
Specifically, if the article deals with communication, a common recommendation is for leaders to listen more. How ironic that those coaching business leaders in their day-to-day roles would use these “numbered” articles to blather on in sound bytes. Say what needs to be said and shut up, right?
A frequent tactic is for the author to parse the “10”, “5”, or whatever into daily or weekly blasts, presumably extending a virtual dialogue on some subject over weeks to months. Exhausting. And why do well-meaning organizations and individuals adopt these communication tactics? We’d have to ask them, but I suspect it involves some combination of a multi-touch marketing methodology or tired thinking (I had an idea. I need to present it to the universe as slowly as possible while I think of the next idea…to present to the universe as slowly as possible…).
At least some of you will argue that you’re getting something out of these. Great. That’s not our experience, but there are certainly contrary points of view to this one.
However, know this – you’ll never see trite lists in blasts from LGL (I went back to check). When we have something to share that may be valuable – we’ll post it. Until the next post from us – we’re thinking and reflecting (a practice we would recommend to all of you).
Lists are managerial. Leading people is complicated. Adopt a “no list leadership” approach. We’ll continue this discussion in our 5-part series on “how to lead without lists” – NOT.
Now go find a human, discover something wonderful they’re doing for your organization, and celebrate that contribution together.