Leadership a group performance?
Ridiculous, you retort.
Nevertheless, it’s true. Get over it.
In this age of intense competition, information overload, and downsizing, no leader can do it alone. The amount of work coming into your Inbox is virtually infinite. The faster you turn it out, the faster new stuff roars in.
So how do you cope? You recognize that the old leadership model of a leader developing followers and directing all their activities is obsolete. Of course leaders need followers, but they also need to unleash other leaders, even within the organizational hierarchy. The hierarchy is not going away, in spite of what some authors say about the lattice network and self-directed work teams. With rare exceptions, groups of people will always have a leader at the top.
Sometimes that leader is terrific; sometimes terrible–an autocrat or egomaniac who is disorganized, indecisive, or a bully. The autocrat may get faster action but will not tap into the creativity and commitment of the people.
Great leaders, like the Founders of the United States, recognize that it takes a group of people committed to a common cause with leadership ebbing and flowing from person to person, even at times to those without authority, based on the situation and the skills of the individuals. Think of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Paine, and scores more. Was any of these the single Great Man Leader with all others following? Of course not.
Effective leaders know when to bite their tongue, letting others lead, coaching them along, using the velvet-soft edge of leadership, letting them experience the greatest leadership development tool of all: practice leading something.
Leadership as a group performance is leadership-centric, not leader-centric, avoiding the risks of the “great man”/“great woman” model of leadership, with the charismatic-heroic-I-have-all-the-answers-don’t-question-my-authority leader in charge. People may comply with that leadership, but they don’t commit their best. They wait to be told what to do, and sooner or later these “great leaders” screw up because they, too, are imperfect.
The only way to build an excellent, ethical, and enduring organization is to enlist both leaders and followers, who have both competence and character, operate by the shared values, trust each other, fill in for each other, and are aligned to achieve the meaningful goals they desire regardless of the obstacles that arise.
Leadership is not the sole prerogative of people with fancy titles or corner offices. Triple crown leaders have a sincere belief in the capabilities of people, knowing anybody and everybody can lead at times, no matter where they are in the organizational hierarchy.
“The best leaders turn their followers into leaders, realizing that the journey ahead requires many guides.” -James Kouzes and Barry Posner, A Leader’s Legacy
Leadership is a group performance, not a solo act.
Are you unleashing other leaders in your group?
Bob and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards.