Leadership Is Not Just Telling Other People What to Do

When I was a young Marine lieutenant, I was taught that if it happened on your watch, it was your responsibility.  The fact that you didn’t know, or someone didn’t carry out your orders, was irrelevant.  Accepting that responsibility with integrity was a critical element of leadership.

In the world of corporation and bureaucracy, and even in the higher levels of the military, this notion seems all but forgotten. 

I recently talked with Dr. Jeannie Kahwajy, founder and CEO of Effective Interactions.  She reminded me that it simply is not good enough to develop the right analytical decision, to give clear direction, have a noble mission, or even to “get” people to do what you want them to do.

You must take responsibility for the end result.  To paraphrase Dr. Kahwajy, we need to take responsibility not only for what we say, but also for how others hear us.  Sound like “a bridge too far”?  According to Dr. Kahwajy, it is not too much to expect of ourselves.  Rather, it is absolutely mandatory and explicitly doable.

To take that kind of responsibility requires a level of humility that allows me to be open to the fact that I may not have 20/20, 360 degree vision at all times.

I might be missing something.  I have to be open to receive insight from others – not going through the motions open –  really open.  And that takes an understanding of my own vulnerabilities, unavoidable myopia, and limitations, together with an understanding of the truth that others can contribute to me as I can contribute to them.

Not too long ago, I wrote an article for the Journal of Enterprise Resource Management, entitled, “Don’t Manage a Supply Chain, Lead a Value Network”.  I was mostly trying to emphasize the fact that supply chains are dynamic and interconnected, and that as such, they require more insightful leadership than the more simplistic concept of a supply chain.  However, the contrast between management and leadership remains even more dramatic.

Leadership is not telling other people what to do. 

Leadership is not telling other people what to do.

(No, that’s not a typo.  It just seems like a hard concept for us to grasp.)

Leadership is humble, responsible and demonstrated through service.  An organization can cultivate leadership throughout its ranks, but it takes real leadership at the top.  I think that the fun and effectiveness quotients of that kind of an organization will blow away those without a culture (I know – way overused term) of leadership.

We can all be leaders.  More than that, we have an obligation to be leaders.

Dr. Kahwajy tells us that leadership and effective interaction are a science and you can be taught how to do it every time.  Her work and services are worth a look.

Let me apologize on the record for failing to properly articulate her ideas and their value.

Leadership is essential to integrated decision-making (think S&OP).  Integrated decision-making is about considering all the relevant tradeoffs and eliminating blind spots to any tradeoffs or risks.  Integrated decision-making requires integrated decision thinking and quality analytics.  Effective analytics, require the analyst to be a leader as well.  See related thoughts here and here.

For this weekend, I leave you with these words from Peter Drucker, “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it.  It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.” (http://www.leadershipnow.com)

Have a wonderful weekend!

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About Arnold Mark Wells
Industry, software, and consulting background. I help companies do the things about which I write. If you think it might make sense to explore one of these topics for your organization, I would be delighted to hear from you. I am employed by Opalytics.

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