The first time I encountered this idea, around 25 years ago now, I found it an assault to my classical training as a psychologist. Over time though, I have come to understand that the question of whether leaders are born or made is the wrong question. The right question is a sociological and anthropological question: what role does “leadership” play in organizing society and what are the different ways we use the concept?
At an organizational level, I have become convinced that leadership resides in the followers. There are times when someone is in the right place at the right time and it all comes together.
The process begins with the people talking to each other in a bounded space, such as an organization. These people talking together look for a leader, not to tell them what to do, but to represent who and what they want as a kind of shorthand to themselves and to the world.
The day a leader stops being representative of their collective wishes, either because s/he has stopped listening or because s/he no longer is what they want, then the relationship all falls apart and force needs to be used to maintain the position of “leadership”.
I suppose another sociological/anthropological question is the circumstances in which we allow leaders to run away with power and to use force against us.
It has long been agreed in the democratic English speaking world that the essence of good government is replacing leaders in an orderly way. I wish we could see the same as the standard in business organizations. The use of force against employees is a sign that something has gone wrong. Alarm bells should go off. And HR should be on the scene in a flash trying to understand why the leader believes so little in his or her people that s/he feels the need to bully them.
Young managers often don’t trust their subordinates. A skill that is rarely talked about is the skill of believing in one’s people and seeing their strengths.
I would love to collaborate with someone on this. It could make a great 2.0 app.2 Comments