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Comments

David Zinger

Steve:

I love the image you used and I appreciated the focus on influence. i think your point is well said about our reluctance at time to be followers but I will follow your next articles on the topic.

David

Wally Bock

I, too, agree with the accent on influence. I teach supervisors that leadership is using what you say and do to influence the behavior and performance of others.

We need to make a distinction, though. It's true enough that you can exercise leadership without having rank or position. But if your position makes you responsible for the performance of a group at any level you have a qualitatively different situation than if you are exercising leadership from somewhere else.

That's because leaders without position can stop trying to influence things at any time. If you're responsible for the performance of a group, you're a leader because people treat you like a leader. They listen to what you say. They watch what they do. And they adjust what they do based on your expectations.

The result if you have a leadership position, you are a leader. The only questions revolve around what kind of leader you choose to be and how successful you are.

Scott M

There is no “silver bullet” when it comes to leadership. It’s a confusing mish-mash of personality, circumstances, and luck.

Some people make great leaders. Some people will never be leaders. It depends on their personality.

And then there are the personalities of your followers. Different people and cultures require different leadership styles. A great business manager doesn’t necessarily make a good politician. A great military leader can fail miserable in business. A great spiritual leader can be lousy as the head of a household.

On top of all that, there are the circumstances. Some business leaders are only great in a crisis. They are brought in when the company is failing, the ship is sinking, and the barbarians are at the gate. But once things settle down, their leadership style simply doesn’t work any more and they are shown the door. I’m sure you can think of other examples. Laid-back leaders may not survive in fast-paced situations. And aggressive leaders will generally irritate slow-paced employees.

Now, all of these leadership books try to be all things to all people. But really, they are focusing on some specific combination of the leader’s personality, the culture he is leading, and the circumstances of his tenure.

And since these combinations are infinite, you get infinite leadership books.

The upshot of all this? Find someone close to you, who understands your personality, your followers, and your culture.

And save the price of another leadership book to buy him some coffee and ask his advice.

peter vajda

Perhaps another perspective; some folks pursue the next leadership book in the same vein they pursue the next self-help book. My life isn't working, I'm unhappy and frustrated. What I've read to date doesn't help because I would be the one who needs to change. That's too discomforting, and too scary a proposition. So. what I'm looking for is the book that explains how I can be happier, more effective etc., and still be the same me living in my safe little box. Hmmmm.

Galba Bright at Tune up your EQ

Hello Steve:

You started such a great conversation. I couldn't keep my head down. I have a great regard for Drucker, however, I don't buy the leader/follower dichotomy. In my field, EQ, the most effective leaders I've observed often lead...however, they often follow ..in the sense of eliciting the views of their team and enabling them to shape the direction of the organisation...part of it involves enabling people to lead themselves..it is a messy, frustrating and often very rewarding process.

What works for me is the idea of influence, because it encompasses a range of nuances and behaviours that go far beyond issuing orders for followers to carry out. Sometimes one influences by direct orders, another time, by showing a very deep understanding of the person that you're seeking to influence. This takes us back to your earlier excellent series about situational leadership.
Leadership involves a continuum of activities, with positive influence at the core.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. :)

Steve Roesler

Hello, David,

Pleased that the influence take rings true for you.

Now I'm wondering: Does a personal/cultural bias regarding the word "influence" get in the way of being effective the same way that many people shy away from "sales"?

Steve Roesler

Wally,

Following that line of thinking, it's kind of like the "tree in a forest" thing: If a person in a leadership position elects not to lead, is (s)he still a leader?

Steve Roesler

Well, yes, Peter, I would certainly think that dynamic is in play here. And honestly, it's not a bad way to learn if you are trying to find just the right voice to touch you with the truth and then take action.

The downside, though, is that which you highlight: If one tries to control "out there" without taking a look at one's role in the entire dynamic, then all the books and explanations in the world won't make much difference, will they?

Steve Roesler

Ah, Galba, as always your EQ is working overtime!

Stay tuned for the "death of the leader/follower dichotomy. Well, it won't be called that, but we'll see if we can make the point.

As always, thank you for taking the conversation into the EQ arena.

Wally Bock

Essentially that's it, Steve. Let me try a slightly different explanation.

If leading is using what you say and do to influence the behavior and performance of a group, then if you're the one "in charge," what you do is leadership. You can choose to act and how. You can choose what you say. You can make decisions or take a pass. You can inspire or micromanage. Whatever you do, as long as you're in charge, will be taken by your followers as leadership. It might be good or bad.

If you don't have a leadership position you can move in and out of leadership activity. Sometimes you can be a leader without being there.

Years ago, I worked with a first-rate Police Sergeant named Art Jones. When you look the positive things you expect leaders to do and the impacts you hope leaders will have, Art was a sterling example of the best.

About two years after he retired, I was participating in a meeting at his old department. Any time a thorny or difficult issue came up for discussion, someone at the table would ask, "What would Art do?"

Note two things about this. Art was not the chief of police or even a command officer. He was a first line supervisor. And he had been retired for years. But what he said and what he did still influenced people far higher in the organization than he ever rose officially.

Steve Roesler

Scott, this is another one of those topics where your practical, hands-on experience shows through.

Your advice at the end begs the question: What stops people from buying another person that cup of coffee and saying "I could use some help?"

Steve Roesler

Wally,

Now that's a legacy. Can you imagine, long after you're gone, having people who are faced with a dilemma asking, "What would Wally do?"

I've always hoped my daughter would want to ask that question of me. To have an entire workplace asking it as well speaks volumes.

Jim Stroup

Steve, as always, you've started a terrific discussion, perhaps even a debate.

All I want to do here is with reference to your observation about the numerous - or innumerable - definitions of leadership. One reason for this is that we are often - even in this comment thread - talking past each other on this topic. "Leadership" is sometimes used as a phenomenon distinct from management, as a part of it, or as an interchangeable word for it as it describes those who run an organization. And that's only the beginning of this problem

Another way to interpret the surfeit of definitions is as evidence of an inability to arrive at a consensus - itself evidence of a more fundamental problem with the basic concept of individual leadership, particularly in modern society.

I'm a Peter Drucker fan, but I must say that the best thing he said about leadership was that it's "all hype. We've had three great leaders in this century - Hitler, Stalin, and Mao." More on that later.

Steve Roesler

Jim,

No argument on any of that. In fact, the conversation begs further conversation in the areas you've mentioned.

Am on the run through tomorrow night (not being chased by the police, just consulting:-) and look forward to extending and deepening these.

Thanks, Jim

Nick McCormick

Steve,
The reason there are so many diet books and leadership books is that people continue to search for the silver bullet. The fact is, leadership is simple as the 4 quotes that you list convey. However, it is so very far from easy. Same with dieting. Eat less and/or exercise more. Can it get any easier than that? But try laying off that extra cookie!

Steve Roesler

Ah, Nick, you caught me in the middle of a chocolate chip.

Maybe the fact that developing one's leadership is a never-ending process means that the search that people are on is actually healthy.

If we stop reading, talking, trying things out...then we're really in trouble.

It's the silver bullet part that trips people up, eh?

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