Tag Archives: Vision

If you think leadership is about having followers – about influencing others – you’re wrong.

I’M HAVING A continuing problem with what I call “The Cult of Leadership”.  Take five minutes to look around the web and you’ll note how almost all material on leadership focuses on having followers, on leading others, on “influence”.

This not only mis-characterizes good leadership, it’s just plain bad advice.   You cultivate the attributes of good leadership not in a quest to lead others, but because the fundamentals of good leadership are vital to success and happiness, whether an organization’s or your own.

Here’s a pretty representative sampling:

Peter Drucker (Management Guru): “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

Rubbish.  Hitler had lots of followers and look how that turned out.

John Maxwell (Leadership Guru): “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”

Bollocks.  Mao influenced hundreds of millions.  All dead.

Kevin Kruse (Forbes):  Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

Better, but still wrong.  What if the goal is a bad one?  And what about all those innovators and entrepreneurs who work on great things all on their own?

So, here’s a proper definition:

Good leadership means choosing the right objective, the best way to reach it, and inspiring others to join you.

Vision first and always as the primary.

Then strategy and tactics.

No “influence”, because you can influence by force, by fraud, by intimidation, or by blackmail;  none of which makes for thinking, value-adding followers.  Others should “follow” because they’re inspired by what you’ve set-out to achieve and how you’re going about it.  Period.

Getting others to follow your lead may be important, but NEVER let it become your primary focus.  Your primary focus is, and should always be,  to achieve a Vision, to create value.  The means of achieving that Vision, which is where engaging other people comes in, are secondary (not unimportant – just not primary).

The moment you lose sight of the Vision, or it becomes blurred, and you act primarily to keep or attract followers, to lead other people, you risk taking yourself, and those who follow you, in the wrong direction.

Then there’s the fact that along with your responsibility to be accountable for your own life, you need to allow (and encourage), others to be accountable for theirs. Good leadership means thinking for yourself, developing an understanding of the human condition, (how people think, feel, and behave), constantly seeking to expand your horizons, and pursuing value for all you’re worth.

The element of leadership that entails others following is a byproduct.

Thinking people choose to engage with you in achieving your Vision because they’re inspired by the picture you paint and by the way you go about achieving it; by how you go about creating value, and because you engage with them justly.

Yes, some people enjoy the act of leading other people, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Unless it’s the primary. Anyone motivated to lead by the desire to have followers, to have power over others, is likely going in the wrong direction. You don’t achieve a vision by looking back (at those that are following), but by keeping your eye on the goal and moving forward. You have to be driven by what’s in front, not by those that are following behind.

The focus on “leading”, rather than on achieving (and continuously refining and evolving) a vision, is perhaps the biggest cause of organizational failure.

It’s the trap new supervisors often fall into when they take on their first management role.

It’s why middle-managers can stumble when they take on a new department or division.

It’s the quicksand entrepreneurs often wade into when their venture gains momentum.

It’s the failing of many a “career CEO” who moves into an unknown field.

It’s the reason so many NGOs become navel-gazing, self-serving, resource-consuming bureaucracies with no clear, focused, and defining mission.

And it’s caused untold death and misery as militaristic despots throughout history sought political power for self-aggrandization.

Don’t worry about leading others.

Foster your independence by thinking well, work on your people skills so that you engage with others well and fairly, be proactive in expanding your knowledge and skills, and work to stay passionate about all that you undertake.

And if you don’t have a compelling vision, or the vision of the organization you work for leaves you cold, the last thing you should be focusing on is leading others. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, or can’t get behind what your employer is trying to achieve, it’s time to re-assess your life’s direction. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, flog a dead horse. I guarantee you that the pain of changing will be less than the pain of stagnation.  And don’t, EVER, lead for the sake of leading.  Lead only when you’ve got some good place to go.

Your organisation has a Vision. Do you?

THE definition of leadership is:

It’s not by accident that the first clause is about what you are setting out to achieve.  It all starts with that.

Good leadership is founded on vision.

That term, “Vision”, is a bit over-used, and therefore perhaps compromised, sullied, clichéd, but it still fits.  Good leaders don’t accept what is, they create what should be.  The “what should be” is the vision.

Now here’s the thing:  everyone needs a Vision.  More than one, actually.

To quote our “What is…” page:

One of those attributes, the most important one, is an independent mind.  A mind (and Soul), that looks at the world in its own unique way, and says:

“What do I want to achieve and how will I do that?”

Creating a Vision for yourself, in fact, a vision for all the major values you’re pursuing in life, is essential.  As somebody wise once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?”.

Visions change, grow, are achieved, replaced; but make no mistake, we all need them.  Success, (and the happiness it brings), depends on achieving values.  Your visions of the values you’re out to achieve are not only your guide (like that mythical star), your Visions are your chief motivators too.  When the going gets tough, a powerful, well crafted Vision – one you can almost taste, it’s so real – will keep you moving, allowing you to maintain momentum.

*   *   *   *   *

Momentum, a fine concept, and the subject of the next post.  See you in a couple of days.

The Six Essential Responsibilities of Organizational Leaders

WHAT do leaders do?  Better stated, what should they do?  It’s a question oft asked and with a multitude of answers.  Here’s a definitive list that briefly outlines the essentials.

If any of these things is not done, or not done well, your venture risks failure. They are not done in isolation, they are dynamic, and often require collaborative effort, but their buck stops with the top leader, be it GM, CEO, President, Chairperson, Coach, or Grand Pubah.

1. Envisioning – What we do; establishing Vision and Positioning.

Envisioning means creating, establishing and communicating a clear, concise, and compelling vision of what value the organization provides to its customers and to its other stakeholders, and delineates the organizations position, or intended position, in the market.

Note that this is not about what the company makes, or the service it provides. The best organizations frame their vision and position in terms of the needs that will be fulfilled.

2. Strategizing – How we’ll do it; establishing mission and strategic plans.

Every facet of the organization needs to be planned for, from production to marketing to finance to logistics to human resources, to R&D, and a whole host more besides. The best planners understand that no plan survives contact with reality for long, so good plans have dynamic revision protocols built in.

3. Delegating – Who will do what; assigning roles and responsibilities.

From a start-up entrepreneur, to a CEO, engaging and deploying human resources effectively & efficiently, and establishing accountability, is essential.  And proper delegation includes performance management.  See here for the when how and why of delegation.

4. Scanning – internally and externally.

Externally; for threats to be defended against and opportunities to be exploited; and, internally for strengths to be leveraged and weaknesses to be negated.

The organizational leader needs to know what’s going on; to have a clear line of sight to the front-lines, as it were.

Internally, that means monitoring performance, for which the two key indicators are quality and efficiency.  How good is our product, (that is, how well are we meeting the need we’ve envisioned we’d fulfill?), and how good are we at delivering it?  Falls in either of these indicators signal a breakdown somewhere, be it in processes, teamwork, morale, cost-control, etc.;


Ensuring the integrity of the organization and all its members. The buck of ethical and legally compliant conduct stops at the top.

Externally, it means knowing the organization’s customers (from every conceivable angle); having a feel for existing and potential markets; knowing what competitors (and potential competitors) are doing and planning; staying in touch with industry trends; and monitoring the environment in general, (which these days is global for just about everybody), for broader opportunities and threats.

5. Networking – Broadening and strengthening the organization’s sources of resources.

Networking at the highest level is important in providing a fresh current of resource inputs for the organization, be it talent, ideas, material inputs, customers, information, markets, and more.  Networking is not just for, actually, not even primarily for, making sales.  [More on networking here]

6. Codifying – Establishing, communicating, and demonstrating the ethical framework (values and principles) by which the organization and all of its members operate.

The organizational leader sets the moral tone.  Period.

That’s it, in brief.  These essential responsibilities are prerequisite for organizational success, but they don’t guarantee it.  Success is never guaranteed.  Mistakes of judgment can still be made, and luck, good and bad, sometimes come into play.

Each of these subjects deserves a post, if not a book, of its own, so in future posts we’ll look into each in more detail. The Method Leadership eLearning courses, on the way for release later this year, will offer in-depth how-to instruction, on these, and many more, topics.

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