Is leadership a set of ideas, approaches, styles and skills anyone can learn?
Is leadership simply a matter of knowledge and understanding – a way of thinking and acting, of doing things a certain way, of getting along with others, of getting others to do what one wants?
Is it ultimately having the means, the resources, the access and the power – personal, social, political, economic, organizational, communication power, otherwise – of being able to influence and bend others to your will?
Of being able to be heard and of being able to prevail?
Of being able to mobilize others to the adoption and pursuit of goals and delivery of results preferred by you?
Is leadership task-specific? Is it role-based? Is it limited to specific situations?
Are there different leaders for different tasks, purposes and roles, or is it one single person who does it all? Embodies everything in himself?
In other words, are leaders born or are they made by the times, training, resources, opportunity and access that come their way?
Or is it a combination of all these things?
The purpose here is not to deal with these rather technical aspects of the leadership question. It is not to address the complex personality, educational and opportunity-based or situational mechanisms that go into the making of leaders.
Libraries and the Internet are full of books and articles and research and theory pieces – literature as it is sometimes called – both good and bad, on the subject.
The purpose here is not to rehash and recycle that wisdom – even though much of it is quite invaluable for a proper understanding of the subject. And even though I have myself reviewed a fair selection of it to be able to make the observations I make in this book.
The goal here is to go beyond those models, methods, taxonomies, typologies and findings to present some thoughts on how to understand better the working of the existing leadership in our own practical, everyday life – and quite simply how to hold that leadership accountable.
The central focus of this book is how, by holding its feet to the fire, as the saying goes, we can get the most out of the leadership we may have.
Or maybe replace it with a better and superior leadership if the present leadership is unwilling to change and unable to deliver.
The focus here, therefore, is on how to identify the nature of leadership by its performance and by its results – an old but tested Biblical formula of judging a tree by its fruit.
And on how to help people understand this clearly so that they will be able to improve their own lives and circumstances by being able to deal with their leadership more effectively.
So what is leadership?
Is it a, b, c, d or all of the above?
My answer? I don’t care!
And you know why.
Because, like most social phenomena, most likely, it is a hodgepodge of all of the above and we would find it to be so if we could look beyond the prisms of foundation grants and university tenure and promotion and corporate sponsorship considerations.
That means there probably is an element of truth in all of the above concepts and models.
Trying to map and measure and make sense of social reality – modulated as it is by personal and social agendas and constraints – is a little bit like the seven blind men who went to “see” an elephant and brought back a wealth of data on the subject but were unable to piece it all together for lack of “sight.”
So are we unable to piece all the shards and shreds of truth and insight on the leadership question and create a larger and more comprehensive picture of leadership for our own lack of “vision.”
That is, for our lack of larger and more integrative understanding – an overarching theoretical umbrella or framework of some kind.
For lack of a grand theory of leadership as it were.
The seven blind men lacked sight, we lack vision.
As a result, elephant to them was a broom, a tree trunk or a giant barrel depending on which blind man one talked to.
To us leadership is this, that or something else, depending on which theorist we talk to or which book we read.
Leadership is Destiny
But here is a most important truth about leadership.
Regardless of whether leadership is a personality trait or a set of skills, whether it is a one-size-fits-all type or a separate leader for separate tasks, the fact is that human beings – individuals, groups, organizations, communities, nations and peoples – need leadership.
Without leadership, they are lost. Without leadership they cannot exist or operate effectively.
As a result, it is fair to say that for a group, organization, community, nation, society or people, leadership is often destiny.
Decisions made and actions taken by people in positions of power, authority and leadership – including the decisions they do not make and the actions they fail to take – can as easily destroy a family unit or local group or a corporation as they can jeopardize the security of a nation or the welfare of a people or a society.
On the other hand, decisions and actions by the leadership can result in joy and success, peace and prosperity for the people.
Good leadership, thus, can bring success and progress, while bad leadership can lead to disaster, destruction, disgrace, even death.
For example, the decision by President Saddam Hussein of Iraq to invade Kuwait and then take on the military might of the United States and its allies precipitated the Gulf War in 1991 and resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Iraqis.
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