Leadership via Action

So many people claim they lead. Maybe they have a big hairy title or powerful position or know someone special, or maybe they just have lots of cash and feel we should all follow along quietly. There`s even a whole industry of "leadership" with books and seminars and all sorts of guys spinning up what it means to lead. I used to think all that was pretty cool (or interesting to study, anyway), but not any longer. Spotting leadership is simple. Look around the room, look for who`s talking and for who`s doing. Follow the ones doing. Chances are those people won`t bark orders to you, but instead they`ll encourage you to work right along with them and you`ll want to. You see, real leaders don`t duck when things get hot. They don`t get hard to find when things get confusing or uncertain. They don`t tell others what to do, either. They just step up and act because things need to get done. Leadership is demonstrated via action, and anyone can lead because anyone can act. Everything else is chit-chat.

Comments:

Hello Jim,

This is an excellent post. I've being working in the consulting industry for a long time and most project problems are solved by people who really get their hands dirty working on a possible solution.
I also think that leading by only talking (depending on the person talking) takes a team nowhere but to frustration or lack of motivation.

Best regards,
Guilherme

Posted by Guilherme Fernandes on January 30, 2010 at 06:41 PM JST #

Yep. I agree. So, why are true leaders so rare? Seems to me that the best leaders are the people just get things done. That's the majority of people, I would argue. Perhaps the minority have stolen the word "leader" ...

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on February 03, 2010 at 10:02 AM JST #

Hi Jim,

Your post was recommended by a friend. I have no disagreement with the original post, but I see some backsliding in your follow-up today. The majority of people are NOT leaders, and "just get things done" is not de facto evidence of leadership. The best definition of leadership I've come across and seen in action is: "A leader is someone who acts as a bridge to take others where they would not go alone." Many "just get things done" people actually end up in ruts and never break out to higher levels of happiness and achievement. I cannot think of any group I've been in (work, school, religious, recreational) where there was an excess of leadership -- the majority are willing to go along for the ride. And that is not a theory, but a verifiable fact (almost universal law). Pick a group you are involved in, and at the next meeting, propose some out-of-the-box activity, mentioning that a number of others will have to step up to make it happen. Are you more likely to hear problems, excuses, etc., or enthusiastic volunteering (especially if real work is involved to make it happen)?

Another way of looking at this is the old saw of three types of people:
Those who make things happen.
Those who watch things happen.
Those who wonder what happened.

The majority are in the second group.

Posted by Vinyl Slider on February 03, 2010 at 04:55 PM JST #

Discussing this is difficult because the word "leadership" is basically meaningless at this point. It's so overused (and abused) by so-called leaders in government, business, media, academia, etc. I'm not interested in following (as generally defined) and I'm not interested leading (as generally defined). I'm interested in doing -- and I am hard pressed to find many "leaders" who also "do" in this world. Most leaders talk, and to me, that's the first sign to watch out for. And most recently I've come to reject entirely the notion that most people are passive and just watch things happen. In fact, most people are running their lives quite impressively under difficult circumstances imposed on them by crappy leaders. :)

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on February 05, 2010 at 03:37 AM JST #

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