There Is An Art to Leadership
November 9, 2003
If you want to be effective in what you do, there is no substitute for personal commitment. And further, if you wish to be perceived as an effective leader you must, indeed, be committed. During the past several weeks, we have been requested by a number of our readers to write a piece on the topic of Leadership. This is an area the two of us have researched, written and spoken about on a number of occasions in different venues. Most of us, if we look for it, have seen ample evidence of displayed leadership in various avenues of life. And then too, there are times when we have seen a disappointing vacuum of leadership in a variety of settings. But then and you can count on it, leadership tends to surface again and the vacuum is filled. But, exactly what was it that surfaced and how do we know it when we see it? That is the topic of this column. We are pleased to address the issue and share our perspective on it.
In most of life's situations, the leadership function is operative wherever there are people assembled. There are leaders and there are followers in almost any social setting. Leadership, in a group, may emerge from the young to the very oldest, men and women, experienced and inexperienced. Through the ages, leadership, in some form, has been apparent in almost all groups and cultures. We see it operative in the day or nighttime hours, seven days a week, in business organizations, social clubs, and all levels of the educational establishment. We observe it in professional and municipal organizations, national and international settings, and religious circles. There are times when we may agree with the leadership style and at other times we may find it highly distressing and in a sorry state of affairs. There is a presence of leadership in most formal and informal organizations, in communities and block groups, rural settlements and urban centers. It can be seen in teen age groups and even among younger children. It is observed in a host of government agencies, neighborhoods, and families. Most of us are aware of its presence or of its absence; we may have feelings about it and we may be most appreciative for it or not always happy with it and, at times, would like to change it. Most of us can see the effect of its impact in our daily lives but we may be hard-pressed to put into words just what it is that is operating. Your columnists hold a view about the preciseness of its definition and we are happy to our thoughts with you.
From our perspective, leadership is an art. The effects of it can be seen and felt, described and discussed. Men and women may be appointed, elected or assigned to a leadership position, which may carry with it a title; but that is positional leadership and does not assure anyone that true leadership will be displayed. The only advantage a title can bring to an individual is that it can buy a little time and with time, it will either increase one's level of influence with others or erase it. One way or the other, it will almost always work that way. The truth of the matter is leadership itself must be earned. True leadership is based on trust and trust flows from character. With the absence of trust, expert leadership is ineffectual and almost nonexistent. For at the heart of leadership is the leader's relationship with followers. People will entrust their hopes and dreams to another person only when they think the other is a reliable, truthful and committed individual. As the Law of Buy-in states, people buy into the leader who is truthful and dependable. People are tentative in their feelings until trust is built between them. People will tolerate honest mistakes. But if one violates their trust with another, that individual will find it very difficult, if ever, to regain the other's confidence. That is the prime reason one needs to treat trust as one's most important precious asset. A positional leader may have great oratorical skills and pretty words but until one sees those words in action, the words may ring seductive but empty. In those spoken words, truth and substantive action serves as the "glue." In short, character builds trust; trust must be there and truth must prevail in order for one to be seen as a leader.
We have only begun to scratch the surface of this dynamic and profound topic. There is much to be discussed and examples of expertness of great leadership to be presented. And that is precisely what we will do soon in another column, as we share FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE.