Sunday, August 21, 2011

Exploring Leadership / Can we lead also?

Exploring Leadership has always interested me, and I want to do this through explaining 3 popular ways that people define leadership.

1. Leadership means being the dominant individual in a group
2. Leadership means getting things done through people
3. Leadership means challenging the status Quo, promoting a better way
For many, leadership means doing all three of these things but there are subtle and important differences. Exploring these differences is essential for understanding leadership and enabling us to define its role and not just using the term "leadership" without knowledge of its importance within society and even more interestingly within sport.

Leadership means being the dominant individual in a group

Going back in time and with cases today, with primitive tribes and higher animal species the dominant individual was the leader. Being the leader simply meant having the power to attain and hold the top position for a reasonable length of time. However, contrary to definition 2, you could be the leader without getting anything done through others. A leader was the person in charge even if the group was in a stable state where people went about their business as normal. As long as group members or team members obeyed the leader's rules, then the leader did not even need to be actively involved in there lives and movements, let alone get anything done through them. You could also be the leader in such a group without promoting a better way as suggested by definition 3. If you didn't need to be voted into power, why have the need to have a platform to change? You simply seized power. Yes the reality is such leaders may have led groups successfully in battle and built great monuments with them, but is it possible to be a leader without achieving anything through a group effort. Of course it is! The meaning of leadership, according to this definition, is to simply be at the top of the pile

Leadership means getting things done through people

Great leaders throughout history have led their groups to momentous achievements, but the idea that leadership should be defined as getting things done through people has developed most fully in both modern elite sport & business, which is all about achieving results. As the importance of achieving results has grown and become more complex, the leadership challenge has grown from simply issuing orders to a "few hands" to the subtle co-ordination of highly skilled,  knowledged workers to build sophisticated machines that put men on the moon. In essence as society began to change the word management and what responsibilities were attached to this word and began moulding it into this more relevant word leadership. First, we pushed leadership into a corner by suggesting that you needed to be an inspiring cheerleader to be a leader, leaving no room for quiet or simply factual leadership. Secondly, by attaching leadership to getting things done through a team, we associated leadership with being in charge of people and therefore ruling out positionless leadership. These two differences are separated into two terms of formal & informal ( leadership without the power basis of formal leadership). In either case, you need to have the personal presence, organisational skills and motivation to take charge to be a leader, and ultimately get jobs done through people.

Leadership means challenging the status Quo, promoting a better way.

We have always felt that leaders have the courage to stand up and be counted. They go against the grain, often at great risk, to call for change. We only need to look at Martin Luther King Jr, his leadership rested not such on his ability to speak with power and conviction in his voice but more so because he marched and spoke against injustice. He challenged the status quo and promoted a better world and people could not help but follow the path to something more promising or better. This is what made him a leader. A captain of a elite sports team more often than not has to challenge the status quo mid-game, and change the actions of his/her team because they believe in a better way to promote a better way to win if the other way isn't working. A leader will always have accountability for there decisions and this is what gets other people inspired to follow. People put there trust in people that trust themselves.

However in exploring these points & definitions, if you think through what it means to challenge the status quo or advocate change, there is no necessary implication that you have to be in charge of the people you are trying to influence. The bottom line is that this 3rd definition gives us a way to break the stranglehold of the previous two definitions.

Leadership reinvented for the 21st Century

If we cast aside the first 2 definitions the what is left is leadership means nothing more than promoting a better way. We then need to say leadership does not entail being controlling, that leaders can be as inspiring as they need to be, good at coaching, developing and empowering people.
A critical fact is that the power on which leadership is based is shifting from having a dominant personality to the ability to devise new ways of working. This is revolutionary because it suggests that leadership can no longer be about group domination. Leadership is a brief influence impact, an episode or act, not an ongoing state or role, a perfect example is the ability needed to make instant decisions in critical moments in games/matches. Strictly speaking there are no longer any leaders, only leadership. This view captures the fact that leadership is a fleeting state that can shift quickly from one person to another. It is an impact rather than a type of person or position. It must be so if it can be shown by outsiders.

Key Features of Leadership Reinvented

So in conclusion leadership consists where:

- It does not involve managing people to get things done.
- It comes to an end once those led get on board. It sells the tickets for the journey; management drives the bus to the destination.
- It is a discrete episode, a one-off act of influence, not an ongoing position of dominance.
- It is based on the promotion of a better way.
- It can be shown bottom-up as well as top-down.
- It can be shown by outsiders and between competing individuals or groups.


No comments:

Post a Comment