Leadership is often and usually thought of as a position of visibility, certainly one of importance. Snipers wouldn’t shoot at officers if the officers were of no value. Leaders have the capacity to inspire, motivate, impress, and command.
The opposite does happen and leadership may be handled badly, but I want only to acknowledge the downside. Today I want to zero in on the up-side, the positive benefits and privileges of leadership.
Leaders usually sit at the top of things, stand at the front of the pack, or occupy the main office space. They are first ones identified with the project, company, or organization.
In my research into this subject there are two individuals from the not so distant past that exemplify this better than almost anyone else.
One is Prime Minister Winston Churchill; the other is General George S. Patton. Both were out front kind of leaders. Neither were they content to simply orchestrate strategies from their headquarters. They wanted to be in the fray and made it a point to be there.
But there are cautions.
1. Be prominent but not dominant. A one man band looks funny and sounds even funnier. Your circle of concern is greater than your circle of ability. You need others to reach the vision, fulfill the dream, or accomplish the objectives. You cannot expect to accomplish much if you lead a phantom army.
2. Be a catalyst for action not a point of reaction. Sometimes your associates will respond badly but by and large you should strive for and expect that those you lead will respond to you rather than react to you. Happy associates produce more. Friction between people does the same thing as friction between material objects. It slows things down. You want to speed things up. Learn how to minimize friction and resistance.
3. Even if you stand in front, you can lead from the back. Building a team of independent thinkers should not threaten you or endanger your position. This is about the vision, not personalities.
4. If everyone is responsible, no one is. There are lots of parts in a car but only one steering wheel. We went through a debilitating period when the popular philosophy of leadership was to even things out, to diminish the role of a central figure. As egalitarian as that might seem and as much as we admire equality, it simply does not work. Someone must sit at the top, stand in front, or occupy the prominent space.
5. Remember that everyone is watching inside and outside the organization. When you have the top spot you can see…and be seen. There is great opportunity in this and great danger. Be careful.
6. Leaders are not only responsible for ????, they are responsible to ????. I left those question marks deliberately. We are responsible for our mission, our vision, or our department’s results and to our superiors, our constituents, and our selves. We are expected to produce results and leave things better than when we joined the company.
A position of responsibility is not one that everyone shoulders well or willingly. Some won’t shoulder it at all. But, as Winston Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”