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This is Not Another Article on Leadership

This is not another article on leadership trying to answer the eternal question, “What makes an effective (great) leader?”

There are about sixty thousand books with leadership in the title on Amazon currently, and this number increases every year. Internet is flooded with articles suggesting how to become an effective leader. It seems that leadership is just like politics – everyone has an opinion about it and thinks they know how to run the country.

According to the majority of these articles, every manager who is in charge of a group of people is considered a leader. There is much controversy about the difference between management and leadership. As an experienced project manager on building construction projects, I completely agree that not everyone in a management position is a leader, nor do all leaders manage. Accordingly, every CEO is mistakenly considered a leader. Many of them sit at the highest level of organizations, they have authority, but they are not leaders.

After reading many articles and a few books with diverse leadership theories by local authors, I can only say there are many misconceptions associated with the phenomenon of leadership. The list of traits attributed to great leaders is almost endless, and a person who might possess all of them together would be superhuman.

Do all leadership books help leaders? Can they acquire new skills from reading books and articles that mostly rehash the same stuff and offer leadership advice in the form of simplistic generalities? 

Above all, are those who share tips about leadership effective leaders themselves?

With respect to the authors, I think not. In general, we are disappointed with actual leaders. There are so many bad leaders on all levels. Despite all sorts of workshops and training sessions that the leadership industry imposes as a priority for all businesses and professional fields, it has failed to develop (better) leaders.

People started to believe that becoming a leader is something we should naturally aspire to and that leadership can be learned in a way we learn formulas and rules in mathematics. Indeed, there is a variety of equations for leadership success developed by all sorts of entrepreneurs and business experts.

The harsh truth is – there is no mathematical equation to success.

We are told from school to working place that everyone should obtain leadership qualities to be successful. We are bombarded by media messages such as great leaders do this, or great leaders do not do that, as well as myths about leadership. Leadership has become an overused buzzword.

A multitude of leadership books and articles offer a multitude of explanations, theories, and definitions. It is calculated there are more than two hundred definitions of the term leadership that are mutually incompatible. The first formal theory equated leadership with personality. After that, leadership theory evolved through history to “leadership is the process of influencing others” and up to “leadership is an activity.” Seemingly, there is still no clear understanding of what leadership is. Each theory alone is inadequate to explain the leadership phenomenon.

The traits attributed to great leaders such as courage, trustworthiness, integrity, modesty, authenticity … matter in ordinary life also. They are not only the leadership traits. However, many of the actual world leaders are the exact opposite of such a description. They are narcissists and political shapeshifters.

Perhaps society should stop insisting that everyone is, can, or should be a leader. There is no need to teach everyone to be a leader. Not everyone can be a leader in the complex corporate sense, nor everyone has a desire to lead. Human beings are hardwired. While spears are still being broken over whether leaders are born or made, I believe that many of us are born not to lead.

Trying to live in harmony with our innate nature and balancing between our hardwiring and an increasingly demanding environment is difficult in a world obsessed with leadership.

Lada Prkić
Lada Prkićhttps://www.bebee.com/@lada-prkic
Lada Prkić is a Civil Engineer and has a lot of professional experience in various fields of Civil Engineering. She works at the University of Split on the capital construction projects at the University Campus and beyond. Besides performing responsible tasks as a Project Manager, and Head of Capital Investment Office, Lada became passionate about blogging. She writes about civil engineering, architecture, geometry, networks on social media, and human relations. Lada lives with her family in Split, Croatia, a beautiful 2,000 years old city on the coast of the Adriatic sea.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting points Lada. The concept of leadership is generally applied in business, military or government. However, I think anyone can be a leader, or at least exhibit leadership tendencies. A parent is a leader. A friend or mentor can be a leader. A coach, teacher or spiritual advisor can be a leader… anyone who is capable of taking charge of a situation and making a positive difference. It is a subjective term once you remove the professional or corporate barriers. However, the term can also be an annoyance as well, as you mentioned the countless books on Amazon. I found that same phenomenon on LinkedIn… everyone was the leader of something, yet none were willing to add “room for growth” in their credentials. In my opinion, a good leader still has room to learn from those in whom they serve.

    • Aaron, good to see you in the comment thread. :) I have read a statement that “everybody is a leader from pauper to prince and from peon to principal provided they deliver their best unmindful of their title and designation.“ I just don’t buy such leadership gurus’ rhetoric. You said that anyone, who is capable of taking charge of a situation and making a positive difference, can be a leader. To me, the emphasis is on “is capable of.” Why should everyone be a leader?

  2. “The traits attributed to great leaders such as courage, trustworthiness, integrity, modesty, authenticity … matter in ordinary life also. They are not only the leadership traits. However, many of the actual world leaders are the exact opposite of such a description.”

    I think a lot of about leaders is as scientific as reading the horoscope i the newspaper: You can always point to something great that happened on this leader’s watch; whether it was done by or just not opposed by the person is often less clear. Laurels go to the figurehead.

    We can all develop character that promotes the common good. Like courage, trustworthiness, integrity, modesty, authenticity. But as it is generally not rewarded in the current setup, many leaders seem to lead where the generally recognized rewards are the easiest for them to get.

  3. Growing up is essential for those living in the business world. It is therefore important to listen to the advice of others and take inspiration from other people to progress also from a professional point of view. Reading, understood as a study, is a factor not to be underestimated. You can certainly get inspiration from reading.
    I believe that an extremely broad and articulate guide of opinions, analysis and leadership suggestions can be especially useful in an ever-changing world. Being a leader is not easy, some say it is an innate quality, a natural ability that only a select few demonstrate. In fact, everyone can become a respected and effective leader by following a few basic rules. The themes and concepts presented by those who have had an effective and internationally recognized experience in the field help to focus energies on something that goes far beyond simple personal ambition. The purpose of a book should always be to provide a real guide (full of stories, diagnostic tools and intervention) to help develop the skills of innovative leaders, able to bring people outside their areas of comfort to face the most difficult challenges and at the same time full of new opportunities. People and organizations are called today to continuously adapt to new realities. To be successful in such a changing scenario it is also necessary to question the status quo, moving with agility and motivating others to venture into new knowledge (see for example widespread digitization and artificial intelligence).

    • Aldo, sorry for the delayed response. My family obligations and work left me very little time for social media.
      You said, “everyone can become a respected and effective leader by following a few basic rules.” I still wonder what those basic rules are. How many of them? In articles and books, we can find those ‘rules’ that differ in number and principle. It seems like there are as many rules of leadership as there are authors. :)

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