Friday, December 16, 2016

no such thing as bad leadership

I was contemplating the idea the other day that there is no such thing as bad leadership, and then I began to think of people I knew who were bad leaders, including those whom no one followed, accomplished little, and left a carnage of bodies behind them.  As these two thoughts swirled in my brain, I realized that I might be right...that there are people in leadership positions who, when performing poorly, are simply not leading.  I am not sure what one might call what they are doing, but I would not call it leadership.  Here is why:

  • my definition of leadership includes words such as stewardship, shared vision, and common good.  If these behaviors or outcomes do not exist, there is no leadership.
  • with apologies to John Maxwell, leadership IS more than influence.  There must be an element of leaving the world and its people in a better place over time when one is leading.
  • leadership, when lived out in all of its dimensions, is good.  The actions of leadership show care for others, help people toward a shard vision that impacts the common good, and stewards the power that is inherent in a leadership role.  Anything less is no longer leadership.
  • there are levels of leadership through which one will progress, i.e. they will get better at leading.  Making a mistake in a leadership role is not the same as not leading, and followers should be looking for signs that differentiate between someone learning to lead and those who can't, don't, or won't lead.
  • those who serve in leadership roles but are not practicing leadership will more often than not be unable to understand or notice this differentiation.  It will be the responsibility of others to note the lack of leadership and put into a place a plan to remove that person and put in place one who can practice leadership.  A word of warning here - where there is no leadership (and remember that those who lead badly are providing no leadership) someone or something will fill the void.  Beware the individual or group who seek to fill that void to meet their own needs.
One final thought...those who choose leaders for their groups, organizations, or institutions may be afraid to put the wrong person in place.  The paradox is that there should be great fear AND there is a need to take a chance on people.  Remember that people can learn leadership and fill that role very effectively.  The challenge is finding the person who is self aware enough to know that there is no such thing as bad leadership and that leadership, which is inherently a good thing, is a journey of learning and growth that takes place over time.

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