Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Emergent or Manufactured Leadership

A whole industry exists in the delivery of "leadership" seminars, training, workshops and courses. Somehow it seems to be the view that if we consistently bathe in the qualities, quotes and examples of recognized leaders then some of the behaviours and values may rub off. Whilst this will always provide a level of professional development, we are really only developing management to be more effective in what they do and instil a sense of confidence and purpose.

Many organisations have re-labelled "management" to "leadership" as if by simply changing the title it will change the attributes of the role. This is essentially "positional" or "manufactured" leadership. Do we really expect to have an organization full of "leaders" anyway when most of what organizations do is administer and manage? We also see schools promoting themselves on the basis of creating tomorrow’s leaders. Firstly what does that mean, and is this now a preferred career vocation and the only one to aspire to?

A similar example of labelling is where the term "hero" is used to describe actions and people who have essentially done nothing more than their job. Whilst not denouncing the value of the role, is an ambulance officer, doctor or fire-fighter really a "hero" for saving someone’s life, when that's what they do every day for a job? Maybe schools should promote themselves by saying "we create tomorrow’s heroes"?

Have we similarly corrupted over time the reference to "leadership" and "leaders".

We also set the premise that because I have a degree or attended a course in "leadership" then I am one. People now set their career plan to work through the organisation using aspirational "leadership behaviour" which is essentially people or behaviour management.

Are we creating a breed of "positional leaders" who may know the process but may very well lack the attributes that the organisation needs in key roles and then wonder why we fail to move forward and make the step change we need?

Have we lost sight of those who would lead by their pure wiring rather than grooming? Those who "have a vision" rather than invent one? Those who have courage and insight rather than manipulate and manufacture the space around them? Those who by their simple presence invoke calm, confidence and respect?

Many current "positional leaders" might really find it rather challenging if their people started to demonstrate the emergent qualities and behaviours being put forward as leadership traits.

Emergent leaders will have a vision. They may not sell it. They may not even drive it. They won't tell you of their leadership ability nor will they cite their recent qualifications. They will not be self-seeking, but of a cause and drive that is bigger than themselves. These men and women have through history, emerged from some unlikely places and positions and if you are not aware, you may miss them in the noise of the manufactured ones.

Our disappointment with organisational leadership is potentially of our own making. For it is because of our "manufactured" and positional approach that we limit the quality of what we have to our own limitations and what we ourselves allow. We can see examples of this in current politics, where we can readily see "career" leaders unlike those who may have “emerged” and led the world through difficult periods of history.

The qualities we really seek will challenges our own positions and make us uncomfortable. Are we prepared for that? Are we ourselves in "manufactured" or positional leadership and struggling to find a vision. Are we trying maintain our own position and inadvertently stopping the “emergent” leader from moving us to the next level?

Are we able to see them?
Will we let them in?

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