In his popular and impactful TEDx talk “Leading with Lollipops”, Drew Dudley proposes that people have made the concept of Leadership about something “beyond us” and that to be comfortable with the title almost implies arrogance.
The continued showcasing of one-in-a-million leadership examples only fuels this situation, ensuring that the mystery of “leadership” lures theorists to try to explain one-off situations that seemed to demonstrate great leadership - in many cases, relying on a scant understanding of the true context.
Another unfortunate result is the tendency for people to believe that leadership is associated with seniority. We have lost sight of the fact that ANYONE can have leadership impact. Whether it is by demonstrating a great work ethic, their morals, supporting those around them, striving for continuous improvement, or countless other ways, individuals can positively influence others around them toward a better outcome … and isn’t that leadership?
All that changes with seniority is the EXPECTATION that you will ‘lead’ … not the exclusive right to.
In all of this, ‘managing’ seems to be far easier to define, less mysterious and therefore less attractive. This is a great loss, in my opinion.
Around 25 years ago Peter Farey, then working on management improvement at British Airways, proposed an interesting model. His research included reviewing the classic leadership texts of the previous five decades and resulted in “Mapping the Leader/Manager”, which was published in 1993. It presents a 20 ‘cluster’ model arranged around two axes (Manager/Leader vs. Task/People).
There are several aspects of his model that stand out to me: Firstly, it acknowledges a very key point – that there are situations were transaction may the priority – just deliver the plan; stabilize and execute; and conversely, situations requiring transformation – change.
The driver of the need for transformation or transaction is context.
Secondly, he proposes that the clusters are additive, not mutually exclusive. You need your people to be able to recognise and respond to the current circumstances, effectively.
Finally, he describes the overall impact represented by each quadrant when that behaviour is effective, underdone and overdone. This aspect alone adds much to its clarity.
If you read the 20 clusters you find that they ‘fit’ the proposed structure but also, that they are all valuable behaviours. They all support organisation effectiveness.
I think his model is a far healthier approach than the ‘Holy Grail’ status that "leadership" has attained. In my eyes, perspective and behavioural flexibility should be the focus.