Any label that could be equally applied to Mother Theresa, Hitler, your CEO, Kim Jong-un, Mandela, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Pope Francis, is in need of some polishing. That is leadership: the art of making others follow you, forgive me the slightly unsophisticated definition.
Leadership is a praxis. Something that some people practice, more than learn, or teach, or that has a solid, unique foundation.
As praxis, leadership is amoral. It’s only good or bad, positive or negative, depending on what the leader does and how.
As leaders, you bring the ethics to the praxis, the moral jacket to the naked amoral practice. Once you are practicing, the practice is not neutral anymore. You can’t get away with preposterous ‘It’s not me, it’s the system’, or ‘ It’s not me, I am representing the company’. People using those don’t deserve to be leaders.
‘The ethics’, of course, are not just personal. They include the values of the system, what is expected, accepted, tolerated, or nurtured. By the way, those four words are not equal.
The elephant in the room in Leadership (studies) is that the term is a host for a myriad of interpretations and logic. Perhaps my superficial definition above, ‘the art of making others follow you’ is as far as one can go when trying to look at commonalities between ‘leaders’. Of course I am in caricature mode here. But it is impossible to continue talking about ‘leadership’ as a well understood, you-know-what-I-mean concept. In that respect it is like parenthood, the art of bringing up children, do-you-know-what-I-mean? No, actually I don’t, because it includes loving parenting and child molesters.
I am stretching it. If I didn’t, I would not be writing these Daily Thoughts.
Some labels don’t help. ‘Failure of leadership’, for example, as diagnosis, is as robust as ‘discontinuation of energy based in charged particles’ do define a power cut in the house.
In discussing praxis, as opposed to theories or attributes or traits, the key is the behavioural translation: what is that people did, or did not, and what happened as a result. I know, quite prosaic, but it’s a star.