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17 Oct 2013

Leadership, The Secret

This entry is part 1 of 14 in the series Leadership - The Secret

3 Gold StarsLeadership is an affect, thus leadership’s secret is about what goes on in the hearts and minds of the group’s members. It’s not about the leaders; it’s about members’ perceptions of leaders. In short, at the basest level, leaders are often actors, personified symbols of the group. When leadership models spend more time on what leadership is, on what leaders are, and on what they should do, they are not tapping the power of this secret.

That is because digging deeper we find leadership is subjective. People will see what they want to see in their leaders. If they like their leaders, they will see good. If they don’t, they won’t. Some neither want nor need leaders, neither leader nor follower they’re a third type. Others can’t live without leaders. We also find that leadership isn’t about what leaders are but about the relationship members feel they have with leaders. Finally, it’s not about what leaders do but about how events shape their actions, making them actors on a stage of constraints. Events can even instill upon leaders qualities they don’t have. Cultures influence those events more than leaders do.

For example, a cooperative leader will have difficulty leading a self-interested culture and vice versa. Cultures will tend to breed the leaders they want, cooperative ones breeding cooperative leaders, self-interested breeding self-interested one.

While seemingly leaving leaders without influence, it’s no less than commanders have in battle, considering constraints such as terrain, morale, technology and weather. Therefore, leaders need more individual and organizational psychology helping them to adapt to members’ expectations and helping them to seize powerful, symbolic moments for change. The secret is that leadership is often more about acting than being. But, this shouldn’t minimize leaders. After all, every play, every story requires a star.


This video by Mike Lehr, Making the Impossible Possible, illustrates the subjective nature of leadership


Series NavigationLeadership, The Secret (Pt 2): Training Implications >>

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