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Why should anyone be led by you? The paradox of leadership

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HC Online | 12 Jul 2010, 12:00 AM Agree 0
“Truth is not in one extreme and not in the middle, it is in both extremes” - Charles Simon 18th Century Pastor.
  • Dr Timothy Pascoe | 14 Jul 2010, 05:35 PM Agree 0

    Dear All,

    Articles like the above, and the books and surveys on which they feed, sound lovely. Who can argue with humility, honesty and the like? Motherhood is unarguable.

    But, let's be serious for a moment. Think of the better leaders you've known - and perhaps followed. Did they all exhibit these nice-to-have characteristics. I doubt it. I've observed highly successful leaders, with teams of committed followers, who wouldn't tick one of the sweet-smelling boxes that surveys produce. They were demanding, egocentric in some cases, driven in most, and part crazed in their expectations in others. They were right for the particular role, the time and the challenges. They fitted the bill, not some theory.

    If you ask people what they'd like, they'll give you a generalised answer. All pollsters know that. But, put them in a specific situation, and they'll want a leader with the package for that situation.

    Leadership is not a generalised skill. It's a problem-solving, adaptable ability to respond to the particular organisational challenges and the specific needs of the people being led.

    If you want to join the real world, where you plan your leadership rather than sign up for generalised virtues, perhaps have a look at It offers a planning process. It will help you identify what leadership actions you should take in light of what your followers need from you - covering your contributions to both the "hard" market and technical issues as well as the so-called "soft" ones of people and culture.

    If you were designing a product or service, or deciding your business strategy, would you plan it? From looking at the local facts, and the specific needs of the situation? Or, would you rely on a one-size-fits-all survey result?

    I know which I'd do. What's your approach?

  • Lyn Fletcher | 14 Jul 2010, 06:19 PM Agree 0
    I agree with Tim Pascoe's comments about true leadership being responsive to the particulars of a situation and that one size does not fit all.

    However, I also think that Jim Collins has a point. We need our leaders to be super human - to have vision and passion and zeal beyond that of the followers. I also believe that those leaders who inspire us most to become 'super' ourselves - to aspire to do more, give more, achieve more- are also those to whom we can relate as fellow human beings. This requires the leaders to also to be humble / human / real and relate to us as fellow travellers as well as guides and inspiration.
  • Ashish Saigal | 14 Jul 2010, 09:27 PM Agree 0
    I feel that a true leader is one who exhibits both sides of the personality - humility and hope when it comes to people aspects like well being, capability enhancement and growth, but on the other hand quite focussed on the successful outcome of the business objectives, and no-nonsense and demanding on commitments and deliverables.
  • Ross Mackay | 29 Jul 2010, 12:57 PM Agree 0
    A true leader is someone that has the Wisdom, Courage and Compassion to work for the success of others. There is nothing 'Super Human" about it, just consistently working with people in efforts to assist them in attaining success
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