Saturday, September 08, 2007

Why most leadership sucks..including mine

I have been tagged by John McKenna at The Leadership Epidemic to comment on this meme he has put forth into the Blogosphere.

Does all Leadership actually "suck"?


There is leaderSHIP and LEADERship.

Note my attempt at scripting art there in those words. :)

A "SHIP" requires a captain who can steer a compliment of crew and resources across hazardous waters to a nominated port. There is a clear description of priorities, purpose, and effort required by all the cogs in this massive wheel of undertaking. A "SHIP" cannot sail itself. A crew maybe made up of many individuals with plenty of opinions and experience but a part of the Captains job is to ensure that all those opinions and all that experience is harnessed effectively for the "good of all" in reaching the shore across the sea. A ship without a Captain or any leader for that matter is a somewhat sloppily managed vessel of disorganised tacking...sometimes against the wrong winds.

There are naturally gifted Captains who through their temperament and talents, their expertise and experience, are able to be clear in their purpose but also effective in keeping the morale and focus of the crew. They are strong willed enough to make the tough decisions and bring them into effect but not without being mindful of the husbandry and care for their team mates, the crew. The "SHIP" is what is important here. It's a collective thing. A combined effort of everyone doing their job and with focused energy and impetus.

....and then there is "LEADER"ship!

A "LEADER" is about his or her personal agenda. The ship is merely a means to an end. There is wealth, power, prestige and glory on the shore at the other end. The goal for the "LEADER" is to get to these goodies as soon as practically possible at all costs. The crew are merely servants in the process of achieving personal will and pride. The job may still get done and the ship will dock safely at the other side... without the crew deciding to commit mutiny... but the unseen costs maybe quite high.

Across human history we have "appointed" leaders of both types to fulfil a role in our collective tribal existences. We appoint some leaders who are qualified to lead a ship and lead it with careful consideration for the welfare of everyone involved in the quest. We also appoint leaders who are autocratically determined to run roughshod over anything and everyone to achieve their goals.

Neither leadership style is really that bad in and of itself. We do very much tend to like and admire the first kind in our current culture, as its more democratic and appears to be more friendly-like and so on. But both kinds of leadership serve a purpose at their given time.

Some really autocratic and unethical behaviour in leadership has led to a nation/country/people to collectively change their thinking and behaviours and rise up to make the world a better place for everyone. The "LEADER"ship they endured absolutely sucked at the time of its implementation and a great many people suffered under its expression, however, collective wisdom suddenly begins to prevail among the masses when this happens and great improvements for future generations are made through the denial of such "LEADER"ship.

Some really, really good leader"SHIP" has quietly and carefully brought people together in a spirit of passionate commitment to making the world a better place. Consider Christ's example in this; a very humble man (His divinity aside if you prefer)... who by his gentle and consistent example changed the world for more than a few generations!

As for me, my leadership "style" is one of never assuming I know it all! I do like to share my passionate vision - when I have one - with people, though. I have been in leadership situations and I worked hard... (a leader by definition always works hard, either doing the job or trying hard to avoid doing the job :)). I have been in leadership situations where I was the one calling the shots and in leadership situations where I was able to let the team become passionate with a shared clarity of purpose. If my leadership ever "sucked" in those moments, it was because I lost a sense of my purpose and did not have a clear focus on the port ahead in choppy seas. That's when things changed and a new leader came into being and a new sense of collective purpose was realised.

Most leadership is just what it is in its Moment. It only appears to "suck" when it seems to be working against our own personal or collective will.

Time heals in extraordinary ways and the "suckiness" of those situations is usually mitigated by a collective will to create a better style, a better Leader, a better collective wisdom, a stronger desire to improve the lot for all the people. For that reason no leadership really sucks in the end just IS as it is, moving people forward or back through time and future... just like a ship that tacks with or against the wind across the water.

For as long as people inhabit the earth they will demand that we are led by something or someone. It's who we are.


CuriousC said...

Hello, very well posted. I read John McKenna's initial post AND his comments and probably popped over to your blog due to your hook of saying "I didn't read the comments here first'. I think you are very eloquent, thoughtful, and thorough. Isn't the very term leadership a term that can't really be judged? only it's examples can be. Like, "gravity". It just is. Its effects can suck and sometimes not.

John W. McKenna said...


Great post and thanks again for tagging more bloggers for the Challenge. I've had more than a few responses from your site. I'll keep an eye on the blogs you sent me via e-mail.

Remember the Minnow.

Take care...


Michelle said...

Hi curiousc :) Thankyou very much for your kind words and encouragement. Yes! I agree...Leadership is something like gravity in many ways.... its there and is necessary and important to the world but sometimes we like its effects and sometimes we don't. A nice analogy. :)

Michelle said...

Hello John :) I shan't forget the Minnow :) Many many thanks for the chance to join you in discussion on this subject. It's giving me a lot of food for thought indeed and I too am impressed with the variety and ideas present in the blogging community about the concept of Leadership. Good stuff.