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Our Definitions Of Leadership Are Mostly Wrong
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ANON1236801031582
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ANON1236801031582,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2014 | 10:28:13 AM
New age motivational thinking....
If everyone is a leader, who will follow?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/3/2014 | 11:57:58 AM
Re: New age motivational thinking....
@anon- Well, a few thoughts on that question. 

1) I don't need everyone to be a leader. I just think we're short on them.

2) Leading isn't an absolute state. It is actually possible to be a leader on one project and a follower on another. Ask a CIO. they lead their IT department but they follow the strategy approved by the CEO. Even if they help craft the strategy, ultimately, the final version is not their call, but that makes them no less of a leader.

3) Leading isn't commanding. It is entirely possible for a room of leaders to craft a vision together and continue to execute that vision together leading their portion of the vision. Nearly every successful company relies on many leaders working together.

I think the leader/follower dynamic is part of the problem with our definition of leadership.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 1:47:38 PM
Re: Our Definitions Of Leadership Are Mostly Wrong
This is a discussion that has been going on forever, and when you lay it out like this, Dave, it's easy to see why. "Leader" is probably something we were looking to define before we even had a spoken language, way back in the caveman days, and yet it remains a hot topic for discussion to this day. Maybe a lot of that has to do with the fact that the duties of a 'leader' change as history moves forward - you mention collaboration of multiple leaders in companies, which is true. It was not so long ago, though, that a 'rule with an iron fist' policy was popular among CEOs. Maybe the definition of 'leader' changes somewhat with the times?

Then again, the definition of lots of things has changed with the advent of the internet. Collaboration is a must, and the speed of technology mandates that we change how we do just about everything. Nevertheless, we still feel comfortable using the same definition for many things (most things, actually) - for example, we use 'e-mail' when it actually has very little in common with mail. So why is 'leader' so hard to define? Maybe there is no one definition. Maybe it's something we made up to pretend we have an explanation for the way we organize ourselves.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/3/2014 | 1:55:14 PM
Re: Our Definitions Of Leadership Are Mostly Wrong
@zerox203- I think you are right that certain aspects of leadership change over time. Others stay the same. For isntance, I can't imagine in a pre-technological world, a king or any other kind of leader could have kept their job if they didn't know how to produce a vision and inspire people to defend that vision. Some of that vision, even for a CIO, is larger than the leader (the brand, the nation, the team, etc), but some of it is personally created. 

One way I know our definition of leadership was changed and continues to change in the business world comes from the influence of the military on leadership literature. Post World War II, especially, an influx of military leaders re-entered both the business world and academia. those leaders, whether they were sergents in fox holes who went back to a machine shop or academics or business leaders turned into staff officers, took much of what they learned about military leadership and applied it to their new jobs and their academic work.

So for decades, enterprise leadership was at least partially compared to military leadership (see your comment about ruling with an iron fist). Some of these elements are great. the army values team work and getitng the job done above all else. Some of it (a clear and constant chain of command) was misinterpreted or misused to create top down leadership that sapped innovation.

So not only does our definition of leadership change with technology but other influeces. I guess this was a long way of saying "you're right."
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 9:06:16 PM
Re: New age motivational thinking....
Interesting discussion on the topic of Leadership.  I agree that the definition of Leadership is in a constant state of flux.  And I think it is subjective as well, but I also think there are a few traits that all Leaders have. For instance:   

1.  The ability to harness the efforts of others to achieve an aim often outside themselves.

2.  The ability to influence individuals and groups.

3. Some sort of Integrity/ Charisma.  If a person is shallow,duplicitous and aloof - not many will follow and the those who do will not for long.


There is certainly more to it but I think you have to have at least have these traits as a foundation in order to ever be considered a Leader.

And last but not lest, I agree with you David, we don't have many of them.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 9:14:37 PM
Re: Our Definitions Of Leadership Are Mostly Wrong
So why is 'leader' so hard to define? Maybe there is no one definition. Maybe it's something we made up to pretend we have an explanation for the way we organize ourselves.

@zerox203    Well said,  An important aspect that I certainly didn't consider.   A truly macro view of the possible reason for this concept.

 

This Act of Nature if you will.  Mass Pyschology and group dynamics are tricky subjects, but play a large role in what is considered a Leader or Leadership.
BenSimonton
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BenSimonton,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/4/2014 | 6:49:41 AM
Why are they wrong?
Great subject, David.

Leadership is wildly misunderstood. Mainly because the leadership industry studies what leaders do and not what followers follow and why they follow.

I managed people for over 30 years. I started by using the traditional command and control model giving lots of orders for the first 12 years thus making all the mistakes one can make. But during that time I was considered to be one of the very best and was given responsibilities well beyond my years and promoted fast.

Then I started listening to my people and responding as best I could to what I heard. Their performance started to rise. The more I did it the more performance rose becoming in 18 months at least twice higher than I had thought humanly possible. I did not need to give orders any more as they were proactively doing what needed to be done.

Years of listening taught me that leadership is simply the transmission of value standards to people which about 95% of them then use as how to do their work - how industriously, honestly, respectfully, openly, cooperatively, fairly, etc., etc.

Leadership is transmitted through the support management provides to its workforce - training, tools, coaching, direction, discipline, material, parts, information, planning, and the like.

Eventually, I became able to raise performance to a level four times higher than I had thought humanly possible because I learned how to convert followers into non-followers.

Hope this helps, Ben Simonton

www.bensimonton.com

 
LUFU
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LUFU,
User Rank: Strategist
7/4/2014 | 3:56:33 PM
A Leader Needs Adjectives
What Drucker leaves out are adjectives when describing a leader as someon with followers. Are they good? Are they bad? Are they inspiring? Are they clueless?

Then again, a good leader with bad followers won't succeed very easily either.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/8/2014 | 7:18:54 AM
Re: Words are not enough
@Rich, I'm laughing but it's true.  He's not in the position he is because he lacks the skills to lead.  We may not agree with everything he does but even if you have no idea what he's up to politically there is no doubt who Putin is and his image is out there doing all kinds of things that make you say, "hmmm, that's actually pretty cool, I want to do that".  All that being said I did like the quote David included from Teddy Roosevelt The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.

This is how I try to lead, I pick people who are capable of doing the job then I give them the tools they need to get the job done and I manage resources and teams not individuals.  
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/8/2014 | 12:28:57 PM
Re: New age motivational thinking....
@technocrati- It is interesting you mention charisma and integrity in the same point. Are you saying charisma will disguise lack of integrity? Ar eyou saying that integrity will make up for a lack of charisma? Is integrity charismatic?

I don't think we normally link the two, but I find it very worth talking about.
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