Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leadership as not always putting yourself first

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 28, 2015

I have for the most part been organizing this blog into relatively tightly structured series, ranging in length from a few essay length installments up to thirty and more such postings. But I have also been posting to at least a few more open ended series in all of this, and one of those endeavors has been an ongoing discussion of leadership. You can find installments to that at Business Strategy and Operations and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations. And you can also find elements of this loosely organized series at directory pages such as HR and Personnel. And up to here I have only been addressing elements of this ongoing narrative that specifically have the word “leadership” in their titles, in this.

I add that I have also added some organized series of postings that fit into this same-topic pattern. And if you look to postings and series that address the issues of leadership but that do not necessarily use that term in their titles, this becomes an ongoing thematic issue that runs through all of this blog and essentially all of its directories.

I am a scientist by training and inclination, but even when I write more analytically about leadership and its decisions and responsibilities, I also write about the art of leadership too. And I add this posting as more of an art of leadership installment, than I do as a science of leadership entry to it. And I explicitly note that point here as a starting point for the issues that I seek to address in this posting. Think of this as an art of leadership continuation of an earlier but still recent contribution to this series: Why do People Follow Leaders? A Lesson in More Effective and Involving Leadership.

Leadership per se is not just about holding authority over others, to bend their efforts to your will. Ultimately, effective leadership has to be backed by voluntary followership; it has to enlist the people who would follow you into larger efforts that they would come to see as offering value to them too, and not just to you. This means offering a vision of where shared effort could lead. But at least as importantly this means leaders openly willingly sharing in this larger effort, and in any risks and costs involved in striving towards it. This is about leaders making as genuine a commitment as anyone who is involved in this larger effort, who would participate in it as a member of their overall team.

That can mean striving towards a fixed goal or end point, or it can mean leading a more open-ended endeavor such as building a great business and then keeping it great and long-term. What does it say about a would-be leader who actively takes credit for all successes achieved, but who firewalls themselves against having to take responsibility from any challenges or setbacks faced, and who buffers and protects their own personal gain from that through golden parachutes and similar means? What does this say about would-be leaders who are ego-driven and who see their title more clearly than they do the responsibilities that it carries?

I write this posting with some of the presidential candidate hopefuls in mind, who I see posturing and making pronouncements in the United States as they jockey for a political party nomination for the upcoming 2016 elections – while proclaiming their leadership excellence in business as proof of their qualification for high political office – and who show more narcissism than they do management or leadership acumen in all that they say and do. And I write this while thinking back over the years since the still recent Great Recession, and how failures in business leadership so heavily contributed to creating that predicament. And I write this while thinking about how so many of those same business “leaders” who’s decisions and actions led to that crisis, remain in power and continue to clamor for more and more again – for themselves personally, and without regard to their actual impact on the organizations that they have lead by title.

Real leaders lead by example and not by ego; they do not go forth as if entitled superiors to all whom they lead. They carry special responsibilities, and acknowledge that others in their organizations do too, and they just happen to be more visible for that than most.

• If you want to be a good leader, start by being a good person and build from there, and both in yourself and in what you do, and in the organizations that you seek to build, maintain and grow.

I do not generally write long postings to this loose series, at least by word count, but I try to address significant issues in it. And I write them as thought pieces, hoping that I can prompt others to think about leadership and what it means, and in new ways and even if they come to disagree with me on the details. I offer this posting in that spirit, scheduling it to go live to this blog a few days short of the start of a new year: 2016.

You can find this posting and some of my more recent installments to its series at Business Strategy and Operations – 3. And see the reference notes that I offered at its start to find further related material.

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