June 2011 Archives

Week Two


Last Week's Definition: Leadership is the talent of coordinating the strengths of many to accomplish a significant goal or task.

This week:
One topic I would like to reflect on is the connotation of the word "leadership" and how that often influences our definition of it. "Leadership" is a positive word and we think of leaders as people who do good things. When leaders go awry, people stop calling them a leader and use words like "tyrant" or "dictator" which have negative connotations. The classic test on this asks if Adolf Hitler was a leader and/or did he exhibit leadership? This boils down to whether leadership is inherently ethical (Terry 2001). Many people may believe so; they would say that Hitler was not a leader. According to my definition from last week, Hitler exhibited leadership. He had a goal in mind and he (very effectively) coordinated many people to accomplish that goal. Calling Hitler a leader does not glorify what happened nor does it mean he was a good person. It means he knew how to get things done, even if they were terrible things.

Coming away from this extreme, it becomes easier to see how it is possible to be a leader but not a great person. Individuals can fluctuate between different styles of leadership depending on the situation. It is the ability to balance these styles that can determine how effective of a leader one is (Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee, 2002). Some days, a leader may overuse the "commanding style" and their employees may very well comment that the boss turned into a tyrant that day. Another day the boss may turn on the "coaching style" and give personal tips to an employee over lunch. The ability to do both is what makes a competent leader. If an individual relies too much on commanding or pacesetting in their leadership style, then they come across as a jerk (or worse). In reality they may not be a very nice person and may enjoy the opportunity their position gives them to control others. Like Goleman et al. said, these "dissonant styles" should be used sparingly.

In conclusion, this week I would define leadership as the ability to effectively address a situation with the appropriate emotional approach.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2002). "The dissonant styles." Primal leadership: Learning to lead with emotional intelligence (pp. 71 - 88). Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Terry, R. (2001). "Deciding what you believe." Seven zones for leadership: Acting authentically in stability and chaos (pp. 20 - 40). Mountain View, CA: Davies-Black Publishing, Inc.

Definition of Leadership

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In simplest terms, leadership is the talent of coordinating the efforts of many to accomplish a significant goal or task.
After reading Rath and Conchie's Strength's Based Leadership:Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow , I find it necessary to fine-tune my definition of leadership using a quote by Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, that was used in the book: "I've never met an effective leader who wasn't aware of his talents and working to sharpen them." It takes many people to accomplish great things. The difference between those many people and their leadership is that those leading are harvesters of strength and talent. Leaders know how to find strengths in themselves and others to form a team of experts that can successfully carry out the task at hand. So to revise, leadership is the talent of coordinating the strengths of many to accomplish a significant goal or task.

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