Leading, following, or just getting out of the way
I’ve spent most of my adult life working with leaders, both in corporations and in service organizations (mostly non-profits). I’ve spent much of the last 10 years teaching about leadership both in corporations and graduate programs. I also coach leaders and would-be leaders.
So you’d think that I would know how to describe what leadership is, and what a leader is and does. It occurs to me this morning that everything I would write here about leadership has an exception–usually in the form of a person I have known. I have known leaders who are not good at the “vision thing” and leaders who are not very enabling of others. I’ve known leaders who are charismatic to the point of narcissism, and leaders who are two-faced like Jekyll and Hyde. All of these leaders have also had strong, capable, enobling characteristics as well.
What I believe is that no human holds all of the characteristics of leadership that any scholar would like her to have. It takes a village, or a committee, or a team to encompass all of the attributes of great leadership. We need each other to lead. Yes, someone has to wear the whistle around his neck and spark the initiative, but others must make up for the lack of vision, personal coolness or rampant egotism that any given human being might also display.