Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thunderbolt (Leaders vs. Leadership)

How do you define leaders vs. leadership?

The sun was shining and we were in the middle of nowhere in the San Louis Obispo county hills on motorcycles. There was Mike on a BMW, Dick on a big Gold Wing and Barbara and I on the Harley Street Guide. It is hard to top a beautiful day and riding motorcycles on a clear country road. We pulled over for a short break and the Thunderbolt Winery logo on the map made us curious so we followed our passion. As always when you leave the well travelled path, you meet fantastic people and experience something new (we’ll talk about staying out of the white aisles in a future post).

One of my favorite finds during this side trip was the sign on the back wall of the tasting room which said - “I’m not going to sell you a bottle of wine, I’m going to help you buy one.” We all like to be taught and experience new things and tend not to like to be “sold” things. It occurred to me as we continued our ride that this is true of leadership too. While being good leaders is important, it focuses on the individual. Leadership has a cultural element. Truly great leadership helps everyone develop their skills to be leaders. Like our expert wine host, we all left Thunderbolt enlightened in some small way.

Have you considered the difference between being a leader and enhancing leadership? How do you encourage this expanded meaning?


Anonymous said...

Interesting article John, very nice.

I view authentic leadership as a sacrifice. So I'm usually inclined to distribute the burdens by influencing leadership in those around me.

By the way, this kind of reminds me of something a close friend said to me on a deployment. "I sometimes feel like I'm surrounded by idiots. I guess that makes me The Leader of The Idiots". Lol! I think influencing leadership is something most leaders who are leading by example want those around them to emulate. It goes without saying as far as I'm concerned. I would much rather be surrounded by good leaders- whether I am leading or following. Who wouldn't? It's just not always possible. However, there's plenty of leadership potential out there, and sometimes you can find the opportunity to bring it out in people.

Obviously, there are those who view leadership as a comfortable and privalidged walk down the white isles. Usually I just view them as idiots though.


Anonymous said...

As always I enjoy your anecdotes to get things going. This one in particular caught my attention, I'm a lover of both motorcycles and wine. ;)

I find your points and the comments Anthony left very interesting. I would argue though that the owner was not acting as a leader by displaying the little quip on the wall but rather as a manager. The smaller the environment (wine shop versus a country for example) the more a leader must slip into the role of a manager and implement their own ideas and decisions.

In my opinion we have to understand that leadership is a dynamic thing. It thinks, it grows, it adapts. To tie this in with the discussion on Chaos Theory but Kwai Yu, without it's dynamic component, leadership would flounder in any but the most stable environments.

Leaders therefor must be able to think nimbly, consider the environment, adapt their strategy and finally DECIDE. Leadership is the methodology they implement to do so.


Anonymous said...

All very interesting.

I think all aspects are valid and I don't discount any of them. I think one way to look at the difference between leaders and leadership, is that often people focus overly on the "leader," but to do so misses that a leader without followers is alone in a crowd. "Leadership" is a dynamic quality that involves the followers, as well, and is an interplay with them. What many self-proclaimed leaders often miss is that they are only important because of the team of followers that they have around them. Often sports stars are so focused on their superstardom, that their team fails - and their potential is lost. The teams that win - win as a team.

In contrast, some of the best leaders are those that understand that they truly are there in large measure because of the team that they lead, that the success of the team is their sole job, not their individual success separate from the team. The irony of successful leadership is often that you only find success as a leader when you give up the concern of your individual success, and simply find a team that works well. As the team develops, it becomes who is best to lead - and who the team will buy into supporting. The "leader" can be an afterthought to effective leadership in the team. The team then become responsible for supporting the leader, as the leader supports the team.

I would ask any leader, who is your team and what are you doing to make sure they succeed - even if it means the leader's personal sacrifices. In far too many western areas, our leaders can think that "leadership" is about their wealth, their happiness and the servants/workers are there to improve the lives of leaders. Feudal lords that have such narrow attitudes often fail, since they failed in their stewardship of those below them. The fact that so many US company executives think that this is a time for their bonuses and lay-offs of the line employees at the same time shows the lack of understanding of maintaining a healthy team.

Anonymous said...

The true essence of leadership is developing others to first lead themselves and then lead others in what ever cpacity they are comfortable with. Everyone is not capable or desirous to lead in a big way, but they can have influence in small and big ways without holding any formal title or position. If an opportunity comes up to attend a great leadership development conference or training, a leader who focuses on other people's developoment will send others instead of him or herself. Great leaders grow other great leaders.

Anonymous said...

Great response.


Anonymous said...

Funny thing about followers is that they don't always follow all good leaders. There is definitely a charisma that is needed for followers and a timing for good leaders. I find that my preferred position (despite the appearances) is to find a good leader and support their position as a chief lieutenant - rather than be the lead guy. However, in a vacuum, I will move forward and lead as the situation requires.


Anonymous said...

When I was in the Army, I used to carry a small piece of paper in my wallet that had a quote from some General - I am paraphrasing, but essentially it said that "if a leader is not tormented by the trials and tribulations of his soldiers, then he is unfit for command"...

To me this is a basic premise of leadership...

Jarrett said...

Its tragic that we only realize those that have true leadership during crisis but reward leaders during times of bliss. An example of this is the $18,000,000,000 of bonuses that were handed out to wall street leaders as everyone lost half of the value of their stock last year. Those with true leadership are going to be the ones that recover this economy without putting greed first.

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