I was once chatting with a Director who was describing one of his management team. “Her a leader? No chance! She couldn’t even manage her way out of a paper bag”. Ahh! Houston, we have a problem!
Leaving aside those who haven’t even cracked the management part of the job yet, my thoughts in recent times is that ‘leader’ is a title given to many, but probably deserved by very few.
Its not always clear what is actually expected of a leader and what the difference is between a good leader and a poor leader.
The doggy lead
I sometimes wonder if the average manager or director thinks of leadership as pulling someone along behind you, or pulling them back to heel when they go too far. Picture, if you will, a dog on ‘lead’ scenario.
The idea being that they are ultimately controlled by you, but occasionally given the sense that they have free will and ability to determine their own path. Free will… pah! Not a chance… Surely our employees are here to serve and obey rather than determine their own paths?
The metal lead
So, with the doggy type ‘lead’ out of the way, next I think about those leaders who clearly believe that the word leadership derives from lead. And if you’re confused, this time I’m talking about that very heavy metal known by the symbol Pb. And for those of you who like to have the facts really clear, that means were talking about that bluish metal with atomic number 82, a melting point of 327.5⁰ C and boiling point of 1740⁰ C
So why do they think that leadership derives from ‘lead’? Well it has been observed that some believe leadership is all about dropping heavy objects onto your employees from your very lofty organisational position. This of course ensures that everyone knows their place, stays where they are supposed to be (pinned down by a lump of lead you are unlikely to move much) and clearly know who’s boss.
This is what you might call a controlling leadership style. Authoritative. A no-nonsense approach to keeping the troops in line. In contrast of course to the doggy lead leadership style, which is clearly far more participative, within the confines of an authoritative environment.
The sales and news lead
So with ‘lead’ and ‘lead’ out of the way, that means we are just left with ‘lead’. This time I’m thinking about opportunities. A sales lead, a news lead. Perhaps this gives us more of an insight into leadership? Follow this ‘lead’ and it might just open up opportunities for you. Provide the ‘lead’ and you might just be the creator of opportunities.
Of course you have to ignore the duff sales and news leads – the ones that lead you nowhere but up the garden path. Ignore too those leads which really weren’t leads at all, its just that someone didn’t have the courage to say ‘no’ or otherwise felt like amusing themselves by pointing you in the wrong direction. Ridiculous really what some people will do just to amuse themselves during the working day. But I digress…
In essence I think that following leads is good and providing leads is good. Both positive activities that provide scope for you to achieve either on your own merit, or to achieve your goals through others. And opening up and taking advantage of opportunities is perhaps the very beginning if you wish to develop a leadership style that provides direction and ideas without ego, brutality, power plays or mind boggling control. So… a good a place as any to start… if that’s what you really want to do.
Love to hear your thoughts and ideas about great and disastrous leaders. The box below is just waiting for your comments.