21 May 2015

what kind of leader are you?

James McGregor Burns book Leadership (Harper Collins) published in 1978, describes, movingly,  the need and the hunger for leadership. His introduction begins "One of the most universal cravings of our time is a hunger for compelling and creative leadership." It's a good read and it gives a good description of a kind of leadership that the author calls "transformational leadership". I referred to it this morning in my video. The transformational leadership model is based loosely on leadership models that appear earlier in the century, with the German sociologist Max Weber, having mostly to do with leadership models that do more than just get things done: these leaders inspire their followers to go beyond what they thought was possible even themselves. These are leaders that are both great and good. They lead through inspiration, most often through times of crisis, have inborn personality traits that contribute to their exceptional leadership abilities. They inspire the growth of leadership abilities in their followers. They have charisma, they have the ability and will to see their followers. Their leadership is characterized by increasing motivation and moral value.
And that's great.  These are heroes. They are the great leadership artists of history. Lincoln, Ghandi, Einstein, DeGaulle. Get the picture?  They are GREAT men, and sometimes women, too. Great, huh?

My only issue with they way these leaders are described is that they are so big, so great, that it makes it seem almost impossible and irrelevant for me to even give it a shot. Here's a vote for dry, academic literature: give me something that let's me decide what to think about these leaders. I understand that they were great, but the point should be, I believe, putting more and more everyday leaders on their feet. Not the big guys, the little guys. The little leaders that don't do GREAT things, but do good, ordinary things that help keep the rest of us willing to do the same.

You can apply the principles of transformational leadership anywhere, just don't be put off by the description of someone else's magnificent deeds. Do your deeds of leadership, they are compact and magnificent in their own way, and just as important.

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