You know it and I know it:
It is time--right now--to stop recycling, re-packaging, and re-labeling attempts to microwave new leaders into existence. Yet that approach must be important, fascinating, or both, because it's a huge moneymaker. Look at this:
Leadership books at Amazon: 216,369 vs. 105,009 for Nutrition & Diet. There are twice as many authors and publishers banking on people wanting to become leaders than caring about becoming healthy ones.
Google "leadership" and you can spend the rest of your lunch break reading your choice of 160,000,000 results. Want to know the definition of "leadership"? No problem. There are 9,650,000 search results for leadership definition.
Wow. Are people who are striving to become good leaders trying to satisfy multiple definitions and the myriad of related criteria?
Stop for just a moment. If you were asked by a "leader" how you define that role, what would you say?
After you have a general idea, read on.
Leadership Definitions From Four Experts:
- Peter Drucker: "The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers."
- John C. Maxwell: "leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less."
- Warren Bennis: "Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential."
- John W. Gardner: Leadership is the process of persuasion and example by which an individual (or leadership team) induces a group to take action that is in accord with the leader’s purpose, or the shared purposes of all.”
Can You Find the Similarities?
One striking similarity for me is that none of the definitions includes rank or title. Three of the four are explicit about influence and persuasion. Two of the four state or imply process and potential vs. "I've reached it!"
But my favorite is Drucker. He's saying "Look over your shoulder. If you don't see anyone, you're not leading." More importantly, if you have followers, you're leading.
- If it's really that simple, then why do you and I, along with thousands of others, meditate on the deep meaning of "leadership?"
- Do individual definitions vary so much that leaders simply can't win?
- Could part of the problem be that you and I won't let someone lead because we refuse to be followers?
Perhaps instead of arrogant, "sucky" leadership, we sometimes have arrogant, "sucky" followership.
- If it's all about influence and being influenced, what gets in the way?
Whether your role is leading at a given moment or following at a given moment, it is all about you... the kind of choices you make about how you influence others and whether you will allow yourself to be influenced.
Let's continue that conversation in the next post. In the meantime, add your thoughts and experiences to the conversation with a comment. You'll help others see new ways of looking at the issues. That's influence!
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