Leadership is not magic or mystical powers possessed by an anointed few?? It is not based on height, weight, or other physical features.? Leadership is something that must be manifested to be observed, felt, and understood. It is based on observance of behavior and clarity of vision that moves inexorably toward achieving a stated goal and engenders the voluntary participation of others towards the achievement of said goals. This succinct definition ?Leadership is the process of influencing an organized group toward accomplishing its goals? by (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2009, p. 6) captures most of the essence of leadership. The successes of various leaders like Churchill, Reagan, Eisenhower, Nimitz, and Gates, have fueled the belief that leaders are born and not made. There is the belief that due to some innate character quality one person may be destined to be a great leader and another is not.
The study of leadership has uncovered some common myths about leadership. Three of the most popular ones are presented by Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy as:
Leadership is all common sense ? Since common sense is not very common, I don?t see how an important skill like leadership could be acquired simply by having some common sense. This analogy is usually applied to things that are not easily explained. Leadership and management are not mutually exclusive and do coexist in the same person. Various levels of either trait are applied in the appropriate situation.? Acting appropriately could be interpreted as common sense. After all, any reasonable person would tend to behave in such a way ? right?
Leaders are born not made ? How could the simply act of being born endows one with the art of ?influencing a group toward accomplishing its goals?? leaders acquire their skills and knowledge through knowledge, learning, and experience ? not through the osmosis of the umbilical.
Leadership is only taught in the school of hard knocks ? ?Experience without knowledge teaches nothing? (W. E. Deming, 1990). To learn from experience (hard knocks), one must be armed with a theory of knowledge and the ability to interpret the experience in such a way that learning occurs. The experience gained through real life is invaluable in shaping a leader?s methods but by itself the experience does not a leader make.
Sometime we use the term leadership and management interchangeably and forget that the two disciplines coexist at some level and coalesce to present the leader or manager that is required at the moment. There are some distinct traits relating to both disciplines. Some say that leaders ?do the right things? and that ?manager do things right.? Leaders plan for the future with an eye on the present, managers deal the present with an eye on the future.? To put it another way, managers are concerned with the efficient functioning of systems and teams at the present, and leaders are concerned with the future state of the organization. Leadership and management skills are not mutually exclusive but are rather a synthesis of the skills needed for the success of an organization. I will close with a quote from John P. Kotter, writing for the Harvard Business Review in December 2001: ?Leadership and management are two distinct systems of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities. Both are necessary for success in an increasingly complex and volatile business environment.?
Hughes, R.L. & Ginnett, R.C. & Curphy, G.J.? (2009). ? Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience (6th ed.).? New York, NY:? McGraw-Hill Irwin.
John P. Kotter (December, 2001). Harvard Business Review, What Leaders Really Do. Retrieved 3 November 2010 from http://hbr.org/2001/12/what-leaders-really-do/ar/1
W. EdwardsDeming (1990). Out of the Crisis (4th ed.). Boston, MA: MIT Press.
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