What or Who is a Leader?
A few days ago, I talked about my boss. She is a handful and a half. She talks often about being a mentor, about motivating, about customer service, about proactive-nesss (or is that proactivity?), and yet, she fills our daily lives with e-mails, voice mails, memos, verbal exhortations (which is another way of calling her question-and-answer-less lectures, or to put it another way, verbal assaults). Most of us have learned to divorce her tactics from our own self-worth, recognizing that it is her "thing" - she is the one with the issues - and she need to feel powerful and authoritarian by putting us down, belittling, and ordering us to do her bidding.
All this is preface to the things that I have been thinking a lot about lately, that is, the difference between leadership and management. Is a manager necessarily a leader? What distinguishes a manager from a leader? An immediate answer might be to think of a leader as the character of the person, while the manager is his role, function, or even his position.
Leadership, then, is a matter of not just what a person does, but who that person is. It is that person’s leadership qualities that flow out of him or her in the way that person thinks, carries out his/her day-to-day activities, in the way that person interacts with the people around him/her. In fact, one can even say that leadership is not about certain character traits or qualities, but it is itself a character trait, such as honesty, loyalty and courage are character traits. Therefore, we cannot say of a person that he or she is a “bad leader”. Embedded within the definition of leadership are the character virtues and ethical standards that prevent the appendage of “bad” or “evil”. For instance, Hitler cannot be considered a bad leader, for if he were a bad leader, it means that he is no leader at all. He can be called a tyrant, a dictator, a conqueror, but he does not belong in the class of leaders.
If this is what leadership is, then how can we develop leaders in our organization? What is leadership development? In some contexts, the term "leadershp skills" have been used to describe a plethora of personality characteristics, behavioral patterns, thinking patterns, ways of communication and interpersonal interactions that are deemed to be important to leaders and leadership. Yet, understood in the way I have described it, there are no leadership "skills". There may be management skills, but leadership is more about character formation. Thus, leadership development is more about personal growth. Let me hear what you think...