Our Articles

The essentials of Leadership - Part 2

August 20, 2015

In 1962 Thomas Kuhn, historian of science, published his seminal work: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He wrote that: periodically a visionary arises and opens a new field of exploration. The new field attracts those who would implement the visionary’s theories and begin to work out the problems presented by the new field. Eventually most of the problems will be solved and the field “fills up” so to speak. As part of the process anomalies appear. They cannot be solved by the rules and methods of the current field.

When they appear early on in the exploration of the field they are usually ignored. But once the field fills up they become a serious pressure that demands solution. As that tension grows two camps emerge: those who are progressive and search for something new and those who are orthodox clinging to what is and has been resisting change and forward movement. This tension builds to a point when a new visionary emerges to open a new field. At that time those who put up the greatest resistance fade away.

A variation on this theme was offered by Max Planck, theoretical physicist and originator of quantum theory. He said: “Scientific theories don’t change because old scientists change their minds; they change because old scientists die.”

So what does this have to do with the essentials of leadership?

Vision

The foremost talent of a leader is vision: the ability to see what others can’t, explain what he/she has “seen” with clarity and precision, convince others of the value of the new enterprise, and lay out the roadmap for others to follow. No vision no movement.

The leader’s thinking must of necessity be holistic in order to integrate the elements involved:

  • Past – maintain what continues to be relevant and let go the rest;
  • Present – accurately assess the reality of the current situation;
  • Future – elucidate the objectives at hand; and
  • Purpose – set the guiding concepts.

The leader grasps the total situation and, as I said in Part I, shapes it into a coherent, functioning, inspiring and directed whole. The leader brings new eyes, no matter how large or small the problem. The basis of this vision is the knowledge---intellectual, emotional, and imaginal---that the whole is more than merely the sum of the parts. The unity of the elements involved creates a higher order entity which stands apart from what has come before.

In short, the leader sees and grasps the new field.

Authority

The leader is someone who is an author---an originator, founder, and discoverer.More so, the leader’s mandate is to organize the ambition---i.e. the emotional drive---of those who follow thereby creating a culture and a team.

The leader animated and vitalizes the group by animating by providing a coherent explanation of the new objectives, thus setting the direction. He/she inspires an enthusiasm and determination to accomplish the new directives and follow the trajectory being established.

To achieve his/her intentions the leader must be self-revealing, i.e. transparent, in order to provide a credible and firm platform on which the new directives will stand and from which flows the trust necessary for the committed participation of those who follow. Transparency need not be personal, although often it is. However it must be professional with the intent of setting and growing confidence in the new endeavour for those who will follow and implement. Success will be a reflection of the community as its forces and efforts are then made available to the task(s) at hand.

Command

Command is not generated through giving orders but through inspiration and example. The leader is the leader because of his/her authorship and demonstrated know-how. Orders will have to be given from time to time but they are not imposed on the group. They are an obvious and necessary outgrowth of the process and the promise of the new vision.

The power of command---i.e. the ability to cause an action and make something happen---flows from the self-evident value and far-reaching impact inherent of the leader’s vision and the trust thereby instilled in the followers. Trust is necessary because, even though in general

the followers will be sufficiently skilled to take on the new direction, the leader, by default, will take the followers into circumstances they have never experienced before.

The value, impact, and trust that are organic to and emerge from the leader’s vision create an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual right granted to the new field of exploration. The details of the new field need to be filled out but the appropriateness and legitimacy of the new direction is unquestioned.

Recap

The leader brings to light a new vision of an area of endeavour and integrates all of the elements in order to establish an inspiring and directed whole. The result is a higher order entity more than merely the sum of its parts.A team is established and animated toward an organized and achievable purpose. From the leader’s inspiration and example command arises creating the power and the right of the new project to pursue its purpose on the basis of its inherent legitimacy and promise.

Jim Sniechowski, PhD

Article found on LinkedIn

Loading Conversation