Leaders vs Leadership

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Try this activity:  describe effective leadership

Write your answers down on a piece of paper.  Then hit continue reading….

People generally give one of three answers:

(1) Most people focus on the abstract ideals of leaders (vision, inspiration and so on) or the attributes leaders are assumed to have (confidence, optimism, charisma and so on) or the behaviors or styles they are demonstrating (transformational, transactional etc).  The focus is on who leaders are.

(2) A few people describe the outcomes of leadership (direction, alignment, commitment and so on).  The focus is on what leadership achieves.

(3) Virtually no one doing this exercise describe what leaders actually do. How and where leadership is accomplished.

The leadership literature has invested significant time and attention on the qualities of leaders and there are many leadership styles and models.  Yet these shed more light on who leaders need to be rather than the ‘how’ leadership is accomplished.

In the table below I compare the assumptions inherent in an individualistic leader approach and those in a leadership as practice L-a-P approach.  Hopefully this will challenge some of your own assumptions about leaders and leadership.

Individualistic leader approach
Leadership as Practice L-a-P
Leadership resides in people (‘entities’; actor-centred) or the dyadic relationship between leaders and followers Leadership is co-constructed through acts, activities and interactions
Leadership is something some (extraordinary) people have Leadership is accomplished when (ordinary) people do the work of leading
Some leaders and leadership styles (e.g. transformational; transactional) are effective Some leadership acts, activities and interactions are effective
Organizations need ‘effective leaders’ or ‘more leaders’ Organizations need people at all levels to engage in leadership
The attributes of ‘effective leaders’ can be captured in competency frameworks. Effective leadership is dependent on the context and the challenges the organisation encounters
Leadership development should focus on personal growth – values, qualities, and behavioral styles that make for “good” leadership Leadership development should focus on resolving complex challenges, working collectively
It is possible to send managers away to learn their leadership Leadership development occurs in the context of organisational challenges where the lessons of experience can be truly accessed

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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