Leaders seem to be an increasingly rare breed these days. Where have the Pericles, Teddy Rosevelts,
and Washington’s gone? If that is too much to ask for, what about the Pitts, Clays and Websters?
Leaders of any notable caliber have gone missing. Why?
What Makes a leader?
A leader is someone who inspires, motivates and pushes others to accomplish a
vision; a vision that those they lead would not accomplish otherwise. A leader
is nothing less. Most of what we term leaders these days are actually managers.
Management is an organizational skillset. While often the two overlap, they are
not the same.
Vision vs Process
Process is the product of management. Managers may pay lip service to people
being the greatest asset of a company, but what they most care about is
process. Processes can be important, as they smooth over difficult or mundane
aspects of work, but they cannot provide vision. Vision is dynamic. It
describes where a leader wants to take his followers. It is Change. Vision
requires change. Process is static. It stabilizes the way things ought to be
done. It is routine. For it to be useful, process has to be routine.
Risk vs Predictability
When a leader puts forth and executes a vision, he is taking a risk. Any
leader cannot justify his vision by the result. If he wanted to do that, he could never
begin . An agent of action must take risks, as they cannot know the end
from the beginning. A manager, however, is wary of all risks. Risk is
imprudent, and foolish. It is also antithetical to their objective. Managers
desire to create routine, and predictability. Risk always makes that more
difficult. Rather than take risks, management prefers to move slowly,
ensuring every angle is analyzed, discussed, and measured to make sure the
correct process is arrived at.
Leaders can act with risk, because they possess true authority. Authority is
the right and legitimacy to act. Authority always carries responsibility. With
authority a leader can act with risk. With authority a leader has the right to
establish vision. Without it a leader cannot be, because he cannot do what is
essential to his existence.
Management despises true authority. Authority requires responsibility, and
responsibility demands accountability. Managers are often skilled at identifying
problems, but solutions to those problems always out of their hands. They
push the responsibility up to those who “have more authority” or down to
“those better suited to fixing the problem”.
So where have the leaders gone?
With all of the above, it would seem that leaders are valuable to have around. So
why are they so rare? I think it is because leaders are inherently risky. A
leader is not someone who can provide the comfortable satisfaction of a predictable
return. A leader might fail. They might have the wrong vision. Risk takers are
a pariah in our modern world. The only risks we like are the ones we know the
outcome of already. The only visions we want to follow are the ones that
have already been actualized.