Monday, August 11, 2008

Two kinds of leadership.

“Leadership has been the subject of an extraordinary amount of dogmatically stated nonsense.” - Chester Barnard, an early AT&T executive and organizational theorist.

Most of what’s been written about leadership assumes that only managers and those appointed to be in charge of others need to practice it. In other words, it presupposes that a hierarchical, top-down organization is the best choice in today’s world.

I don’t agree with this assumption, for reasons I'll explain later. In a complex, fast-changing world, two heads are better than one, and the more relevant skills and opinions you can benefit from in a given situation, the better. Sometimes, a shared, collaborative leadership is called for. This requires that people at all levels take the lead whenever their experience and knowledge will provide additional insight and advantage.

So, I plan to explore both kinds (which are not mutually exclusive), and write about:

- how to develop individuals as leaders,
- how / when to create shared, collaborative leadership.

I'm often asked to explain the difference between managers and leaders. Here are some differentiating examples:

The manager is a good soldier; the leader is his own person.

The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.

The manager makes decisions; the leader shapes decisions.

The manager initiates; the leader originates.

The manager’s eye is always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is also on the horizon.

The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.

The manager knows how to tell; the leader knows how to ask.

The manager takes people where he wants them to go; the leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.

The manager concentrates on efficiently climbing the ladder of success; the leader checks whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

Tomorrow - how to become a better leader.

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