There has been a lot of discussion in the Mayor’s race about leadership. I’ve thought a lot about leadership over the years and talked about it in the classes I’ve taught.
Leadership is the art of enabling a group of people to accomplish together things that they could not do alone.
Leadership is comprised of three basic elements that are rooted in the fundamental nature of human experience. Those elements are: Mission, Love and Hope.
People follow a leader because they think that he knows what he’s doing, that he cares what happens to them and that if they follow him everything will be all right.
Leadership involves two very different but very important sets of tasks. Knowing what to do. Keeping the group together.
Leadership is not about formal authority. You cannot be designated “the leader” despite have been given formal authority within the group.
Leadership is not about command and control. You cannot control a group by issuing commands. Formal authority and command and control are like a battery back-up system. You can use it for short periods of time in emergency situations but you cannot depend on it to provide sufficient power for effective long-run results. And when you use the battery system, it must be recharged from sources of real power.
Leadership can be learned. You have to learn both about the work the group needs to accomplish (the mission) and about how to understand and connect with the members of the group (love and hope). In addition you must learn self-discipline. You cannot control other people if you cannot control yourself. And you must develop intentionality. A leader must plan ahead and think of the consequences of what he intends to do, not only for him, but also for the group as a whole and for individual members of the group.
Mission, love and hope. And the self-discipline to get better and better at it over time. That’s leadership.