When my son first went to High school, I sat him down and asked him how he would like to be head of the student council in his final year. His eyes sparkled as he said, “Yes, I’d like that,” Now this is where you might want to tilt your head and put on a quizzical frown – I told him that I could virtually guarantee this role or the vice position if he was willing to follow my instructions. Neither the details of the conditions that applied, nor the result of the conversation are important at this point. The question is, can anyone make such an assertion with any confidence? Would it entail bribery and corruption, having the right contacts or mass hypnotism? The answer is that leadership is such a scarce commodity and is so easily taught with the help of a life coach, that I could actually make this claim with a very high degree of confidence.
Of course, corporate life is more complicated than school, and politics, qualifications, length of service, etc. all have an influence – so, no guarantee that you’ll be the CEO/Company President in five years. But, a firm grasp of leadership and some guidance along the way will certainly aid your chosen career path. Anyone who ignores a strong leader does so at their own peril. What is the difference between leadership and management though, and is it something one is born with, or is it an acquired skill?
Seen on a bumper sticker:
DON'T FOLLOW ME, I'M LOST TOO!
The distinguishing mark of a leader is that he/she has followers. We have all seen charismatic leaders who head up churches, companies and other organisations. They seem to attract people almost magically, like a magnetic field that draws other people to them. But people also follow leaders who have no innate ability, no charisma and that they would rather avoid. These leaders get their power to retain followers from their position of power (this can be positional, if they were appointed to a leadership role; referent, if they are an authority in a specific field; coercive, if they hold some position of force, such as knowledge with which to blackmail or threat of force over followers; etc.)
Either way, a leader’s function is to unite people in the pursuit of a common vision. A visionary leader does not just decide to start off in a certain direction one day and hope that people will tag along. He will carefully consider all the factors influencing his intended path and choose his target audience of prospective followers carefully. It is an exercise in personal marketing to pitch a vision at a target market in such a way that people will latch on to it and enthusiastically support it. It isn’t so much choosing the specific vision as it is the pitch – there are always enough people who will support any given vision, but reaching them in such a way that they respond to your particular call is not as easy.
Stick to me, I'll make you famous.
Paraphrased from -
William H. Bonney (aka Billy the Kid) from the movie Young Guns II:
"Yoohoo. I'll make you famous!"
Also, there are plenty of causes if this is what you are lacking. Just listen to what people are complaining about. This is what affects their life sufficiently to motivate them to action. I should warn you however that a leader does not follow the pack – he/she stands out and is noticeably different. You cannot stand with the crowd and lead them at the same time. Let me give you an example – My niece came home from school one day complaining that their school’s bathrooms for the girls were in such a state that no-one wanted to use them. Apparently all the girls complained about the unhygienic conditions leading to them not using the bathrooms at school and having to wait all day to get home and use the bathroom.
I asked her what she was planning to do about it. Her first response was that she was a junior and the typical learned helplessness. With a little coaching she however soon decided to draw up a petition, got so many signatures that their headmaster could not ignore their plight, and pretty soon she came home announcing that, not only were the bathrooms completely overhauled, but she got a certificate of recognition for her contribution!
Much still remains to be said on gaining followers’ trust and commitment to the vision, how to get from aimless milling around to getting going towards that vision, positive and negative leadership, the exact distinction between management and leadership, leading your leaders, etc., but the mechanics should at this stage be rather clear. It should also be obvious that anyone can learn to be a leader – provided that you’re willing to stick your neck out. Take up the challenge, tomorrow the answer to the question; "who is that out front?" could be YOU.
ALTHOUGH LEADERSHIP IS NOT ONE OF MY MAIN TOPICS, I AM PASSIONATE ABOUT THE SUBJECT, SO I'M POSTING THIS UNDER COMMUNICATION