Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is Leadership Dead?

    My love for studying leadership developed over twenty years of community change, human development, and self employment while collaborating, building consensus and creating opportunity. The literature and thoughts regarding leadership are ongoing and continually reworked:   Transactional Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Authentic Leadership, Servant Leadership, Values-based Leadership, Strengths Based Leadership, Positive Leadership and on and on. Sometimes different labels are just a way to publish new books and measures of certain leader qualities but there are similarities across the spectrum.  Just different terminology with associated meanings.

     Certainly some part of my dissertation will contain a leadership element, just as the master's thesis did but not because we need more studies or data relating to leadership. As a species we've long ago crossed the knowledge threshold of what real leadership is and the impact potential for teams, organizations and communities.  Unfortunately we apparently lack the courage or will to go beyond self interest and greed, if one spends any time watching the news (best not to).  Obviously there is no leadership in Washington currently in either party or chamber.  Leadership doesn't do damage to the economy, to citizens, the community, the country or humanity.  That's what management is for - to squeeze the most blood out of replaceable employees in the name of quarterly profits based on big data and spreadsheets regardless of stakeholder impact.

     I'm particularly fond of Frances Hesselbein who first said "Leadership isn't what you say, it's what you do." Follow that with the ongoing work of the Robert Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and part of his definition of leaders:

     "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, 
      freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect 
      on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?

     Is leadership dead?  Absolutely not. 

     I see it almost daily in my community and the multiple organizations I serve. Thursday while being one of three men to attend the 100 Women Strong Leaders of Distinction luncheon, featured speaker Gyl Kasewurm talked briefly about the glass ceiling for women and asked why whether politically or in Fortune 500 companies there are so few women in leadership positions.  While it wasn't appropriate to answer in that forum I thought "55-80 year old white men".  The honorees were Sister Paulita Walters and Sister Sharon Wedig from the Readiness Center.  There wasn't anyone in the room who doesn't exhibit daily leadership qualities and makes a positive difference in their teams, organization, community, county, state and then by correlation, the country and planet.  I see it in religious organizations throughout our region and countless volunteers who tirelessly work to help Do Something.

    Leadership is also visible in countless for-profit organizations who have found that serving all of their stakeholders (not just stockholders) is actually more profitable building better trust among employees, vendors and customers.  Chip Conley gives a tremendous talk below about leadership in the 21st Century.  That's the kind of leadership we need in our companies and governments globally now more than ever.  Naive?  Maybe.  But I have faith in things not seen and the ability to lead by serving and making a positive difference every day.  So do you.