“Leadership is not about being in charge.
Leadership is taking care of those in your charge.”
Last week I attended the Southeast Case Research Association (SECRA) conference. At the conference, professors get together to talk about case writing and they provided a peer review each other’s cases. I am an officer in this organization (which is probably the nerdiest thing you have heard all day).
At breakfast on Saturday morning, I was talking to a colleague who taught management at a state school in Texas. He was an Air Force Academy graduate and he was telling stories about his time at the academy. The conversation wandered into a larger conversation about the nature of leadership. We were both management professors. His sub-discipline was strategy; mine is leadership. The odds that the conversation would not wander into such a theoretical place was quite low.
He mentioned that in the military it is easy to confuse rank with leadership, but that they are not necessarily the same thing. He observed that top brass seemed to think that because they are in positions of “leadership” that they are demonstrating leadership, but this is often an illusion. They were confusing leadership with command.
He explained that it is easy for them to confuse administration with leadership. They tell someone to do a thing and they do it. But leadership is not so simple. In his words, “I don’t follow you because of how effectively you allocate resources.” The reality is that we follow leaders because we trust them to have our best interests at heart. Leadership is not a position; it is a relationship.
If your paycheck is dependent on doing what a leader says, of course it will get done. But what if it was not? As we talked we considered how many people would follow those same senior officers if they did not have to.
If you want to test your leadership, lead a volunteer effort. If your volunteers come back the next day, it is quite likely that you were demonstrating leadership.
What About You?
If you are in a management position, do you exercise leadership or command? Do you confuse efficiency with leadership? How do your people respond to your leadership?