The other day I was the Airport. Looking through the various management/leadership/inspiration books there is a book by Bob Jones – Jones on Management – with a section on Leadership. Jones, as many will know is one of New Zealand’s most successful property developers and investors with a lifetime of experience. His proposition is that Leadership is all fluff; that all you need is a general manager who does a good job managing and other people will see this, and if they are properly rewarded, will also perform well. He suggests that many of the so-called great leaders were managers who happened to be in the senior position at the right time – Churchill and Mandela are two examples given. Could Jones be right? Could it all be spin? I do know that there are many who are attracted to such a proposition. So what defines leadership against its practical and straightforward brother management? Jones is at least partly right. A good manager can do a good job if properly resourced and in the right position – this is what his proposition is – that positional power is really what leadership is. Really? Do we all need to have “position” to lead others – is leading necessarily just being “the boss”? Do you lead because of what your title is? Or do you lead because of other things? I know there are what I would call leaders amongst us who can drive their team’s performance though their energy, their deep understanding of colleagues, and appreciating their unique differences. Of course such people can become the boss and probably rightly so.
What meaning will I bring to those that I lead? How will my leadership help? Will performance improve because of me? Why should anyone be led by me?
One thought on “Is there really such a thing as Leadership?”
In Software flat organizational structures are popular, especially amongst trendy startups like Google. Also there are “Individual Contributors” and “Principal Engineers” (more senior position titles) who might not at a given time have direct reports.
Nonetheless in companies organized this way Team Leads and others (like those with the fancy titles mentioned) are expected to lead without specific authority.