Fewer Kingdoms. More Leading
Fewer kingdoms. More leading.
There is a big difference between choosing leaders and choosing to lead. Of late, we are not so good at either choice. I think it’s because we are confused about what a leader does.
Recently, we seem to be drawn to people who claim they will protect us from harm both at home and away. They promise a bright future if we follow them, and they double down with insurances of order and safety for all.
This is a compelling offer and many have signed on by voting for these potential leaders. However, are they really offering us leadership? I believe issue is not so much with their offer to lead, as it is with our understanding of what leaders can do.
We trip ourselves up because we confuse authority with leading; they are not the same. Ron Heifetz of Harvard defines them this way:
“Authority: Formal or informal power within a system, entrusted by one party to another in exchange for a service. The basic services or social functions of authorities are:
- Direction and Vision
- Making difficult decisions based on role.”
“Leadership is a choice and activity rather than a set of personal or institutional capacities. Talented people often exercise leadership on some issues and avoid it on others. No person or institution leads consistently across all issues all the time. Second, prominence, resources, or positions of authority do not define leadership. Significant leadership often comes from the margins of society, without authority.”
What then defines leadership? It is the activity of mobilizing people to tackle the toughest problems and do the adaptive work necessary to achieve progress.
These days, we are seduced by the idea of a monarchy or a “strong man” as leader. Fare enough, as long as it was an open vote that put them there. Once the voting is complete, we would be wise to remember that presidents, prime ministers, congresses, and senates have less authority than they claim and offer fewer leaders.
As it has always been, it is up to us to raise our hands.