Leadership (continued)

The Price of Leadership

Leadership is often mundane and thankless. Gratitude is a learned emotion, and many of us never learn it. Expressions of gratitude require discipline, and some of us lack that discipline. A leader never expects gratitude and never works with the expectation of personal reward or recognition. Leadership is rare. The privilege of leading is the leader's sufficient and unparalleled reward. Leaders sometimes pay a high price for their role. An eloquent statement of the price of being a leader is written in the Declaration of Independence: "...we...pledge...our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." It is not an overstatement of the price of leadership. If personal wealth and power are your goals, forego leadership--there are better ways.

Leadership Requisites

Purpose is a good starting point. An act must be motivated by good intentions and worthy purpose to qualify as an act of leadership. Worthy purpose and good intentions sometimes produce undesirable consequences, and it is conceivable that events driven by base motives may produce unintended, beneficial results. But if we fail to specify worthy purpose and good intentions as leadership requisites, we risk honoring John Dillinger and Al Capone for their criminal roles.

Most of us probably agree that leaders are good communicators and that communications capability is a necessary leadership tool, although some acts of leadership communication may be non-verbal, e.g. a courageous vote, in council, signified by a raised hand. Successful leaders were probably in existence at cave man's first grunt, before written language. But in our complex, contemporary world literacy is not only a necessary communication tool, it is also a measure of the user's ability to think clearly. Our ability to think clearly about a mathematical problem depends on our ability to correctly select and arrange mathematical symbols. It is also the case that clear thinking with word symbols requires the ability to correctly select and arrange the word and punctuation symbols. It is not unusual to encounter persons exercising authority whose use of language, particularly written language, reveals muddled thinking. We do most of our thinking with word symbols. It is very probable that leadership requires an ability to think clearly. Literacy is one indicator of that ability.

Leadership occurs only if there is a need for a leader. Leadership occurs only if people are reluctant to act and a leader must overcome that reluctance.

If a follower responds to a leader's behest, the follower is doing something he ordinarily would not do and would prefer to avoid. Otherwise leadership would not be required. The follower makes a rational decision. He weighs the consequences. A follower's response to a leader's call is not based on faith. Faith puts us in a religious realm . A mere mortal cannot claim leadership status if the followers are motivated to act by God.

A person can strive to become a leader, but the success of that effort will be decided by others. Followers decide whether a person is a leader. Leadership status and Nobel Prizes are never self awarded.

The role of charisma in leadership is difficult to evaluate. Charisma is defined as personal magnetism or charm. We assume that charisma, attractive appearance, good health, wealth, and social connections confer a potential advantage. Charisma, although probably an advantage, is not essential. Leadership is based on earned trust, not charm. A leader attracts followers who question, examine, and reason before committing themselves. Unreasoning followers are more susceptible to the personal charm and magnetism of a charismatic personality. Unfortunately, charismatic personalities have produced some of history's cruelest human exploitations. Persuasion is a legitimate process when based in reason, but a tool used by confidence swindlers and exploiters when abetted by charisma and applied to naive or unreasoning people.

Practical Aspects of Leadership

Leadership is not a substitute for management. A modern organization can exist with woefully deficient leadership, but cannot exist without applied management skills. Leadership is an option.

Expertise, although essential, does not constitute leadership. If a doctor remedies your ingrown toenail, you are grateful, but the doctor does not become your leader because of that expertise. If rely on a trail guide to get you through a wilderness, you are in a sense a follower, but leadership is broad spectrum. Leaders also perform their leadership functions outside of and beyond their realm of technical expertise.

No experienced, rational person would accept responsibility for a modern organization without also receiving commensurate authority. Even those of us who fervently believe in the value of leadership do not believe that modern organizations can function successfully without authority. The art of leadership hasn't advanced to the degree that would make it possible to operate modern organizations without formal authority. However, many people within organizations practice superlative leadership without benefit of authority.

The author of the essay you are reading believes it is very difficult to practice leadership in the business realm because of the problem of divided loyalty. If you practice leadership in a business environment who are the followers who benefit from your leadership? Stockholders? Customers? Employees? Vendors? Each category has interests divergent from the other categories.

Team Leadership

What does it take to turn a group of individuals into a team? The basics of a team are outlined below.

Singularity of Purpose

A team needs an easily recognizable goal or purpose which the members of the team accept and pursue. Diffusion of purpose shatters teamwork.


Team members routinely make personal sacrifices for the benefit of the team. Each team member believes that the welfare of the team and the goal pursued by the team are more important than his or her personal welfare or ambition.

Mutual Dependence

Team members' fame, fortune, or lives depend on other team members. Team members are inherently at risk and must develop confidence and trust in their team mates.

Shared, Defining Experience

It is the shared, defining experience that bonds team members and separates them from people who are not part of the team. A defining experience generally involves intense physical activity, or stress, or fear.


The team members must believe in something greater than themselves, must pursue a greater purpose than self-aggrandizement. Most team members do not receive public adulation or experience exceptional financial gain.


Every team must have a leader. That leader must inspire the team members, must reinforce focus on the singular purpose, must teach and encourage mutual dependence, and the team members must believe their leader would readily make personal sacrifices for the team.


Teamwork has a down-side. Teamwork requires intense emotional commitment that team members cannot indefinitely sustain. The existence of teams within an organization may also produce counter-productive competition. Teamwork is a politically correct "buzz word", and we believe we should have teamwork. But most business and governmental organizations are staffed with individuals performing specialized jobs. Ordinarily we need employees who are reasonably cooperative and who routinely exhibit a sense of responsibility. Teamwork is not always the correct solution.

Observations of Leader Behavior

Leaders are not necessarily liked. They are respected. If you are a person who has a strong need to be liked, it will be difficult for you to make the tough decisions leaders make. Do not strive to be liked. Take those actions that earn respect. Leaders are respected.

Leaders do not by-pass the chain of leadership within an organization, because doing so destroys trust and creates uncertainty. The elimination of "middle management" and the advent of e-mail presents some modern day challenges for leaders and followers.

Leaders praise publicly and reprimand privately. This is ancient wisdom, sometimes forgotten.

Leaders are builders of people. Leaders bring out the best in people. A leader is only as good as the people he leads. Consequently, a leader trains his subordinates, encourages them to use their initiative, and gives recognition when it is due. A leader leaves everyone with whom he works a better qualified person as a result of skill development, training, experience, and encouragement.

Leaders promote pride among followers, develop a cooperative spirit, and foster the attitude that the followers are members of a winning group or organization.

Leaders are decision makers. Decision making may be the essence of leadership. Leaders surround themselves with competent people. They accomplish that task by judging character. Judging character is decision making, and it is probably the most important leadership function leaders perform.

Leaders take risks. A leader takes the risks necessary to accomplish objectives and advance his organization even if the risk means the leader is putting his job, his career, or his fortune on the line.

Leaders accept responsibility for their actions. Leaders are a little bolder, a little more courageous than others. Leaders make the decisions, take the risks, and accept the responsibility when things go wrong. Ironically, leaders tend to give a lot of credit to others when things turn out favorably.

Leaders encourage initiative. Leaders elicit ideas, listen to opinions, and encourage subordinates. Leaders draw out the talent and performance that will enhance the reputations of their followers and accomplish the goals of the organization.

Leaders set goals and focus the energy of their subordinates. If there are no goals, the mental and physical energy of the followers will be unfocused, applied to the wrong things or, perhaps, not applied at all. If there are too many goals the focus will be diffused. A leader analyzes his operation and selects those few goals which are critical to the achievement of key objectives. A leader promotes the important goals until they become a "way of life" in the organization. No one can give great emphasis to all things all of the time. Leaders concentrate on the most important.

Leaders give credit where credit is due. A leader is psychologically mature. He obtains satisfaction from accomplishments. He can afford to be very generous in giving credit to those who help establish and accomplish the goals of the organization.

Leaders go where the action is. A leader stays in close contact with his people and thus becomes aware of their needs and problems. If the followers are facing a difficult or unpleasant task, the leader's presence says: "We will see this thing through together." A leader builds morale by being at the right place at the right time.

Leaders delegate authority. A subordinate cannot exercise responsibility effectively unless he has commensurate authority. It takes courage to delegate authority, and self-restraint is required when something is done differently than you would have done it. A leader has both qualities.

Leaders lead by setting examples. Setting an example is a powerful leadership act. We set examples even if we don't intend to do so. Leaders do it consciously and appropriately.

Leaders are facilitators. A follower who is creative and productive may not have the authority or resources to do some of the things which need to be done. A leader clears the roadblocks and provides the resources if the follower is doing something worthwhile.

Leaders are organizers. Accomplishing tasks in an organization requires assembling the right people and the right assets at the right time.

Followers Who Have Good Leadership Believe:
a.They can trust their leaders.
b.They are treated fairly by their leaders.
c.They are doing something worthwhile.
d.They are good at what they do.
e.They are respected by their peers.
f.Their initiative and contributions will be recognized.
g.They belong to a good organization.
Reasonable Expectations

Leaders make mistakes. Leaders are not perfect. They are human.

A Leadership Hazard

We live in a media rich society. The media thrives on sensationalism and controversy. The media can destroy hard won reputations or construct wholly unwarranted reputations. It makes the process of earning trust more difficult. Fortunately, a tremendous amount of leadership occurs without media notice.

© 2002 Jack Stevenson

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