It’s time to redefine leadership. If you were to examine what leadership involves critically, you would quickly discover that it is necessary to turn the conventional definition of leadership on its head.
Conventional Definition of Leadership
I have asked people to define the word ‘leadership’ many times in the past and the answers they have given all have the same two components. The first component will have something to do with people. They speak about coaching people or guiding people or directing people. The second component would refer to an outcome of sorts, such as a goal or a vision or a result.
These two components are generally explained in such a way as to suggest that the vision, goal, outcome, or result is the end, and that the people and the things done to them, are the means. Basically, people think that leadership is about achieving a result through people. Ask the man on the street, or the CEO of a large corporation what leadership is, and this is what they will tell you. They may not use these exact words, but this is what they think leadership is.
Unfortunately, from an intent point of view, the industrial definition of leadership leads to failed leadership. Consider the following two scenarios: both my employees, Fred and Joe, need to do a job that I am very experienced in.
In Fred’s case I tell Fred: “Fred, in 1980 I did what you need to do now and what I did worked. Don’t argue with me, go and do what I did.”
In Joe’s case I tell him: “Joe, in 1980 I did what you need to do now and what I did worked. It may be helpful to you, so have a look at it.”
If these two interactions consistently reflect how I treat these two people, then over a period of time, Fred will disengage, and Joe will engage. On the surface it looks like the reason for this is that I am being too direct with Fred I am being nice and collaborative with Joe. However, there is more going on in these two interactions than what first meets the eye. To see what is going on you need to look a level deeper.
When you look deeper you get to the level of intent/deeper motive. From an intent point of view, in the Fred interaction I am using Fred as my means to my end of getting a job done. I’m trying to get/take something from Fred.
However, the Joe interaction is different. Assuming I am being sincere with Joe, it is possible that I could get a completely different result to what I got in 1980. It may even be worse. I am taking a risk in order to give Joe the freedom to use his own initiative. Because I am putting the job at risk, we must say that in the Joe interaction I’m using the job that he is doing as an opportunity to teach him something. My intent is to give to Joe, I am concerned about his best interest.
Excellent Leaders Produce Excellent People
To summarise, the problem with the conventional definition of leadership as ‘achieving a result through people’, is that it is consistent with the interaction we had with Fred. The intent of conventional leadership is to take. To define leadership in such a way that it would reflect the Joe interaction, I would have to invert the means and ends of the statement. Actually, I would have to say that leadership is about achieving people through results. While this phrasing may sound a bit bizarre, this is, in fact, what leadership is about.
Being able to fulfil the role of an effective leader requires this understanding that may not come so easily for most leaders. Schuitema Group is dedicated to leadership excellence to help leaders achieve people through results.