leadership stereotype

Leadership stereotypes

Posted on August 22, 2010. Filed under: command or control, expectations, leadership legacy, leadership stereotype, personal leadership |

Today’s post is very different to the one I had planned – all because of two unforseen factors.

The first was the point at which I was up to in reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” where he talks about a war games scenario. One team gathered and formatted many types of data and information on the ‘enemy’ and used that to create detailed forecasts and plans about what would happen next in the battle. The other team was far more adaptable and creative in the situation. The rogue leader in the scenario (known as Rip – or more correctly Paul Van Riper) refused to allow himself or his team to become caught up in the process or the data analysis – he told his team that he would be in command not in control.

Let’s look into that phrase a little deeper – being in command traditionally is associated with control (we even label one leadership style as command and control) yet here is a man saying that he is going to be out of control. How many people could panic if they knew their leader was out of control. Yet think about it: what leader expecially at senior levels can be physically in control of every single task and interaction within the business or even the team?  MMany of our assumptions and stereotypes place this undue expectation on a leader – and then when s/he fails to deliver on that level of detail we criticise.

For those of us who are or have been leaders I’m sure there are examples and experiences coming to mind right now.

Leadership as being in command and out of control.

A freeing statement – the leader is freed to focus on the vision, strategy, holistic view while the team are empowered to do what they do best. It allows members of an organisation to apply their technical specialties and perhaps gain a high degree of satisfaction from being trusted enough to be left alone to get things done.

Naturally this is not a totally hands off situation – the leader is always there if and when the team need to reach out for guidance or assistance. The leader is not effective if present and close to the team to the point where s/he is “in the face” of the individuals trying to get their work done.

So leadership as being in command not control.

That seemed like an interesting topic to contemplate as it seems far removed from how we normally reward or monitor the performance and effectiveness of leaders.

And the second factor that came up today – leadership as a legacy. After attending a great dinner on Friday night hosted by Loddon Murray Community leadership I held onto a comment about our role as leaders being to pick up where others have trail blazed us to and then also paving the way for those following us. Each of us has an opportunity, or even an obligation, to smooth the way to some degree for those following us.

It made me think about the role of leadership as being about a legacy and in some ways it’s humbling to see yourself as both a leader (traditionally associated with success and being one of a small group) and as a piece of a larger puzzle or tapestry.

Two thoughts, related in many ways yet different.

Looking forward to more discussion and development on these areas.

Have a great day.


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