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« Innovation and Learning | Main | In Praise of Tedium »

The Myth of Leadership


What's a leader?Leaders and managers don't change people: people change themselves. All that an effective leader or manager can do is get the right conditions in place for effective change (for the better) to happen. In political terms, it's the difference between power and authority. Power is where, when someone says "X will happen", people say "We must do X"; authority is where, when someone says "X will happen", people say "X ought to happen". Having authority is better than having power in the long run.

What are the tell-tale signs of effective leadership? Well, a sign of ineffective leadership is the absence of change.There are three key indications of effective leadership:

1. Some team members rebel, argue for the status quo, and resist the changes you're trying to bring about.

2. Eventually, they leave. Or they join the 3rd group...

3. Some people thrive in the new conditions you're establishing.

You need to exercise caution in interpretation:

  • the status quo may work perfectly well;
  • people may leave because you're a bully;
  • and the incompetents may be the ones who are thriving.

So there needs to be other signs as well, such as:

1. More support from senior management and co-workers.

2. Greater interest in taking courses in ICT (education technology).

3. Improving grades.

4. More respect for the tech facilities.

And other indications in the same vein.

So, if things look like they're starting to unravel, you may actually be succeeding!

This is an updated version of an article which was first published on 3rd August 2007. The image is (c) barunpatro.

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Reader Comments (3)

Good post Terry.

Surely though,if a good leader changes the conditions to help colleagues-
then it's the leader making those decisions and the conditions that help change bad attitudes are a direct result of that.

So it is good leaders that change people and not just the conditions.

Without the good leader you wouldn't have those conditions in the first place.

It's called being strategic.
October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIdeas_factory
Really interesting article. I like the differentiation between power & authority. Often not understood. As a leader I looked to use the potential of my team whichoften meant them moving onto promotion. I like to think it was my intuition that saw it & created the conditions for them to flourish.
October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHead's Office
@Ideas I guess what I'm saying isthat a good leader changes the way things are in a subtle way, not always by brute force. But you make a very good point.

@Head's Office I can certainly relate to that: I made sure people in my teams have been promoted, and sometimes that means pointing out to them that they CAN aim higher for themselves.

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