Difficult, but Not Complex

"Leadership is difficult but it is not complex."— Michael McKinney Millions of words have been written to define, describe, clarify, illuminate, and give meaning to the word "leadership".  Tens of thousands of books, articles, and other media forms are devoted to the behaviors, styles, traits, attributes, and mannerisms of leadership and leaders.  All of this, while valuable in its own way, also has the effect of obscuring what I think of as the pre-eminent role and fundamental job of the leader; to solve organizational problems and prevent new ones.  This is the bedrock "what" of leadership, an effects based view of the role of the leader that pin points her/his primary responsibility in a broad and all inclusive way, while still making it possible to visualize and take the specific actions to achieve the definition's aim.

As Colin Powell said: "Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership."

From this seminal starting point, all that a leader must do follows. The "how" is comprised of leadership actions to solve problems by, for, and with/within the leader himself or herself, the followers, and the organization.

Success at the "how" requires the leader to:

  • Do the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons.
  • Understand that the most important aspects of leadership involve the follower; it is they who determine success or failure, who create the foundation upon which rests organizational and leader success.
  • Comprehend at an elemental level that employees are invested in self, team (because they receive gratification from the team), and mission, in that order, and that leaders must invert this precedence to one of mission, team, self.
  • Grasp that all organizations work relentlessly to optimize the personal convenience, circumstances, and betterment of those in the organization and in doing so sub-optimize all other things, especially the aims of the organization and its customers.

Not complex, but difficult to do, nonetheless. I'll write all about how this framework is put into action in subsequent posts.

"Leadership is the ability to establish standards and manage a creative climate where people are self-motivated toward the mastery of long term constructive goals, in a participatory environment of mutual respect, compatible with personal values." — Mike Vance

Keith Stalder, #33

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