Thursday, September 6, 2007

What is Leadership?

Nation, we're going "off the board" on this issue: Rather than telling you all what you should think, I'm hoping instead to hear from you about what you ALREADY think about the issue.

Quite simply: "What is leadership?"

We hear a lot about leadership these days. Usually, from people whose own leadership is under question. Tories spending millions to broadcast ads that tell everyone "Stephane Dion is not a leader". Jack Layton screaming about how having our troops in Afghanistan for longer than the next 24 hours shows a "lack of leadership" on the part of the government...

What IS this "leadership" we hear so much about? Is it getting people to do what you tell them? If so, Hitler and Stalin could be characterized as great leaders. Is it being RIGHT about an issue, as Democrats keep insisting that Dubya is "a poor leader", despite the fact that everyone around him does what he tells them to? If being RIGHT is the hallmark of leadership, then shouldn't we applaud Maginot, for building the line of fortifications that, as promised, stopped the Germans from invading from the East? (they came through Belgium instead). Or is leadership all in the results? Mark Messier captained 2 teams to the Stanley Cup (the only man ever to do so), and won it 6 times in all. Is the Moose therefore a better leader than, say, Mike Bossy?

I know MY opinion... I share it with Ralph.

"I just got out in front of the parade - it was the people in the parade
that determined where we were going."

To me, leadership is knowing what the people want and need (by asking them), and then finding a middle ground between the 2, giving it to them and staying true to the core principle while being open to the evolving nature of reality.

What I'm MORE interested in is YOUR opinion, so please add it to the bottom of this post as a comment, or email privately if you prefer, at amishbuggyracing (at) gmail (dot) com.

- E.S.


Kirk Schmidt said...

Leadership is about knowing when it's *time* to lead, and when it's time to follow. A good leader does not always need to be in front of the pack - a good leader needs to step up, however, when a (to use the analogy) parade marshal is needed.

Therein lies the key - can a person listen as well as talk? question as well as answer? forfeit his/her need to be in charge for a greater good?

This is where dictators of the past have shown the greatest weakness - their inability to succumb to the will of others. It is through balance, through knowing that one cannot possibly be always right, but also knowing when it's time to not be right, where a person often comes out as a leader.

I've met many "leaders" who do not lead groups, do not actively show their feathers, but who command large armies of people because of the trust they have built in those people - through being balanced and fair, listening as well as talking.

Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with Kirk.

I would add, also that sometimes people and the media confuse "speaking out" on a variety of topics with leadership on same. A leader does not always have to be front and centre in the public eye 24-7. Sometimes when the media charaterizes a leader as "invisible", all they mean is that he/she has not made any grand announcements (i.e. they don't have a story to write today). But it doesn't mean that work is not getting done.

I think if you look at some elected officials, and see how long some of their staff has stayed with them, then you will get a good idea of how good the person is as a leader. This is especially true in public service, when a leader cannot just simply reward followers with high pay.

Lex Luthor said...

For me, a leader is an individual who draws inspiration from the sources around them and the drive to make necessary, and sometimes unpopular, changes to improve the situation/country/province. It involves a lot of listening, to both the people and the experts. It also involves a lot of intestinal fortitude to stay committed to the goal. Finally, they need the humility to admit when they have erred.

Unfortunately, what makes a great leader and what makes a great politician are not the same things.

From someone I thought was a great leader...
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
Winston Churchill