Every man without passion has within him no principle of action, nor motive of act.
-- Claude Adrien Helvetius

 

   

The MONTHLY Motivator - June 2003

Leadership

Every endeavor which brings people together, requires effective leaders if it is to be successful. Leadership can focus the energy and the actions of a group toward a common purpose, and bring with it great achievements.

“The real leader has no need to lead --
he is content to point the way.”
          -- Henry Miller

You become a leader by making a commitment to the group that you would lead. The more you give of yourself to the interest of the group, the more of a leader you become. Yes, you can be hired, or elected or appointed to this position or that, but your title alone will not make you a leader. True leadership is an activity, not a title. It is what you do in your role, not the role itself, that makes the difference. Many times you’ll find a leader who doesn’t even hold a title, but who is unanimously acknowledged to be the group’s driving force.

True leaders don’t request permission to be leaders. They just do it. The father who shows up at every PTA meeting, voices his opinion, and volunteers to help, becomes a leader. The engineer who works long hours to ensure that all parts of the project mesh together, becomes a leader. The sales rep who shares her successful techniques with reps in other territories, becomes a leader.

Leadership exists and flourishes outside of formal organizations. In fact, in today’s restructured world, where organizational lines are becoming less and less defined, the need for leadership is greater than ever. And by the same token, opportunities for leadership are everywhere. We tend to think of “leadership” as being president of one’s fraternity or manager of a corporate division. More and more, however, leadership is defined in terms of situations, and less in terms of organizations.

As organizations become less structured, leadership becomes more important. Every group effort, whether it is planning a dinner party or developing a new programming language, requires the focus, direction and cooperation that can only be supplied by a leader. Any situation involving a group of people, can benefit from leadership.

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have
to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
          -- Margaret Thatcher

Leadership and power are not the same thing. One can attain power through brute physical force, or through the use of material wealth, or by political means, or in a number of other ways, without ever exercising leadership. True leadership, on the other hand, comes not from simply having or acquiring power over others. Rather, it comes from earning the respect and commitment of others. Yes, power does come along with leadership. Yet for true leaders, power is only a necessary tool, not the ultimate goal, of leadership. Leaders exercise power, not for its own sake, but to further the interest of the group. It is sometimes a difficult distinction, and a key attribute of leadership is knowing how to make that distinction with confidence.

“A President’s hardest task is not to do what is right,
but to know what is right.”
          -- Lyndon B. Johnson

Leadership is a delicate balance, and requires constant vigilance. The leader must be simultaneously confident in her own judgment, and considerate of all the various needs and perspectives of the group members. Leaders must speak and act decisively, while constantly examining their own motives.

A leader who cannot make a move without seeking full consensus, is not effective. On the other extreme, a leader who dictates without regard to the group’s input, quickly loses respect and support. Leaders must carefully weigh the issues, and then take a stand based on what they believe to be the best interest of the group. Leaders must make decisions, and then stand by those decisions. There will always be opposition. That is the nature of leadership. Leaders must have enough confidence, and decisiveness, to overcome differences of opinion and to act in the interest of the entire group.


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—Ralph Marston