More Philosophy On Leadership

As a former business owner with operations in many states, I’d say I have a decent handle on the definition of leadership; what it is and what is supposed to do. Yet, I am often reminded that “Leadership” has become a catch-all term, which is too bad, we are all too quick to label things leadership or proclaim the need for leadership. Some describe what they call “leadership” and when you look closely it looks more like; how to con humans into doing things you want them to do, akin to that famous saying: “Diplomacy is the Art of Letting Others Get Your Way.”

Not long ago, I talked with a Floridian Author of multiple books on leadership. I must say; I am impressed with his sincerity, ethical base, stick-to-it-ness, character and truth seeking – that’s pretty rare. Every once in a while someone comes along, and you just think to yourself – wow, good job.

There is a good book titled; “Outliers” perhaps you’ve read it, one thing I’ve found is that just because someone is good at something, doesn’t mean they will make a good coach, instructor, mentor, or leader. Some would say true leaders are a lot like coaches, yes, there is some of that in leadership, others say it is how you project yourself that gives people confidence in themselves when you tell them; “You Can Do This” which is also a component of leadership (Read About: General Patton and leadership), some say leadership is all about communicating a vision or mission statement – true, that too, getting someone to seize on an idea or brand, to stand for something larger than themselves, to give 110% and expect to win, play on a team and persevere.

And, with that said there are all types of leaders – you have the fearless leader, and you have introverted leaders, you have people who’ve been thrust into leadership positions merely for leading by example. There are administrative leaders, and so many variations on each type. Sometimes the style of leadership matters, just as the corporate culture matters, or the mindset of a sports team or perhaps the micro-teams in business units (Read: The World On Time by Fred Smith FedEx Founder).

Knowing your limits is also a key to good leadership, however, if we want those who follow to believe that there are no limits – then we need to be careful both how we see our own limits by quantifying them; and, how we communicate such a mental limit to them.

Regarding leadership as a whole, one thing they teach in the Military (West Point, Annapolis for instance) is that to be a good leader you must first be a good follower. Thus, we should be giving more emphasis to followership right? Another interesting point is one of respect. A leader who is not respected makes a lousy leader, and can actually be dangerous to the cause whatever that cause may be.

Some say that “Leadership comes from a barrel of a gun” Mao said that, and perhaps a Machiavellian Prince might also; aka: “It’s best to be loved and respected, but if you can’t do that, the second best is to be feared and respected.” The challenge with being loved and respected is that the leader falls into a trap of promises to all, at the cost of the mission or goals – socialist populist leadership for instance, keep promising everyone everything to be loved, until one day it becomes obvious that “you’ve run out of other people’s money to spend” (Margaret Thatcher said that). Glad to make you think today.