delegation, followers, leader, leaders, leadership, manage, management, management responsibilities, managers, motivation, needs



  1. McConnell, Charles R. MBA, CM


Many who enter management are ready and willing to accept the benefits of their positions, but not all are readily accepting of the full responsibilities of leadership. All too frequently, modern leadership appears self-serving, with the needs and desires of the leaders taking precedence over the needs of the followers and even the needs of the clients or customers. True leadership, however, should primarily benefit the followers rather than the leader. Leaders lead and followers follow for essentially the same reason, fulfillment of needs, so leaders and followers are fundamentally little different from each other. Every manager at every level has organizational superiors, so every leader is a follower as well. A true leader among managers is one who subordinates personal needs to the organization's needs, places employees well above self in importance, models appropriate behavior for employees, and functions as a facilitator in the employees' continuing efforts to get the necessary work done efficiently and effectively.


IS LEADERSHIP AN art or a science? Are leaders born, or can they be made? We surely have no definitive answers to these frequently posed questions and no answers at all other than "Yes" to all parts of both questions. Yes, leadership can rightly be called an art; yes, leadership can justly be referred to as a science; yes, leaders are born, occurring naturally in society; yes, leaders are made, arising through appropriate education and development.


Most people probably have some capacity for leadership, although in some people leadership potential may be severely limited. The fundamental difference between the leader and the nonleader is often marked by no more than the extent to which an individual has succeeded in learning about leadership and putting what has been learned into practice.


Leading is similar to a great many other human activities in that possession of a talent for it can be extremely helpful, but it is not necessary to be extraordinarily talented to be successful. The average worker may not be a natural leader-and there are such people as natural leaders-able to run a large organization or persuade large numbers of people to willingly follow in some undertaking. Nevertheless, most persons in organizational life stand at least an average chance of being able to furnish capable leadership for a department or other work group.


Clearly, there are dramatic differences in perceptions of what characterizes an effective leader and how a leader should behave. We can find such differences embodied in the views of leadership put forth over the years by certain people who have either succeeded in leadership roles or have studied leadership and some of its practitioners' successes and failures.


For example, Henry Ford is credited for saying, "The question of who ought to be boss is like asking who ought to sing tenor in a quartet. Obviously, the man who can sing tenor." Although Ford did not say how the man who should sing tenor became able to sing tenor, the clear implication is that leadership is a talent with which one may be born. We can perhaps argue that in most instances innate ability requires conscientious development, but one who accepts the Ford argument must essentially believe that leadership requires something special in the individual that may not reside in all people. Ford was saying, in effect, that leaders are born.


A different, and some will say overly simplistic, view was advanced by Robert Townsend in Up the Organization, originally published in 1970. He said, "How do you spot a leader? They come in all ages, shapes, sizes, and conditions. Some are poor administrators, some are not overly bright. One clue: since most people per se are mediocre, the true leader can be recognized because, somehow or other, his people consistently turn in superior performances." Where this seems to grate with many is not in the implication that leadership results from something within the person without suggesting how it got there-that is, inborn or developed-but in the pronouncement that "most people are per se mediocre." Townsend might better have referred to most people as "average" or, perhaps better yet, "ordinary." However, his statement does rightly suggest that effective leaders can arise from the ranks of ordinary, everyday people.


John Seaman Garnes, writing considerably earlier than Townsend, said, "Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determinations." Moreover, Wendell Wilkie was quoted for saying, "Education is the mother of leadership."


Building on the foregoing, we might then suggest that effective leaders may well be ordinary people, but they are probably ordinary people with a mission or drive-that "extraordinary determination"-and they do not take leadership ability for granted but rather cultivate it through education.


If the preceding paragraph perhaps describes the nature of true leadership, we can proceed to suggest that what remains for that leadership to be seen as appropriate and effective is a matter of focus. To once again quote Townsend, "True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not the enrichment of the leaders." We need not go too far out of the way to point out that recent years' behavior by numerous highly placed executives that the enrichment of the leaders has all too often been a top priority.


Many people express eagerness to attain leadership positions. Readily accepted are the inflated salaries and benefits packages and other perquisites of executive management, but not so readily accepted are the core responsibilities of leadership. Some in leadership positions will perhaps reject this contention, but recent history contradicts them. The failed executive who "bails out" with a multimillion-dollar severance package and the top manager who exercises multimillion-dollar stock options while the employees see their retirement investments shrivel to nothing have both abrogated the responsibilities of leadership.


Whether chief executive officer or first-line supervisor, effective leadership begins with acceptance of leadership's responsibilities. Regardless of the level of the leadership position under consideration, whether first-line supervisor or chief executive officer, many, perhaps most, of individuals ascending to leadership are focused more strongly on the rewards and perquisites of the position rather than the responsibilities.