Every morning I get an e-mail that calls my attention to the latest article on Leadership and Management; sitting at my desk I look at the bookshelf and I see whole rows of books on leadership, and one big question rises to me: why are there so many books and post on leadership???
Sure, it is a crucial theme, and not only when it comes to business, but have so many authoritative and respectable leaders, researchers and experts not yet found a "last word" or definitive finding? You have plenty of compelling and extensive research, theories and models, as well as tools such as trainings, workshops, coaching, mentoring using the most different approaches... So What is missing to make us all "leaders"?
I guess the answer is in that single comment that usually is posted by someone to almost every good article on leadership. Usually this type of post is mistakenly ignored or considered trivial and controversial. I quote the last one I read: "I scored 100 (it was a self assessment on leadership-editor's note) and no CEO title, hmmm...... what am I doing wrong. Lolll.......". Of course the answer of the author is about the fact that his CEO might step aside... But the real answer is simple: You did not achieve the result! Might sound provocative, but follow my stream of consciousness a little further...
My statement is clear: Leadership is about leading towards a goal and, most important, it can be measured only on the final results! Just think who we quote as an example of a leader, they are people who have caught our attention because of the results they have achieved, not because of their characteristics or skills. If Apple had not become the phenomenon that it has become, we would have never seen an article, book or movie about Steve Jobs. And, by the way, he would not fit in most of the "virtuous" leadership models authors present as the key to success.
So I guess we have to shift our attention from leadership traits and competencies towards goals and results. Let me make a brief example about sales; let´s consider increasing degrees of results and, as a consequence, leadership:
Typically a sales person will measure his results on booked business (particularly in large corporations, where the value chain is very long): good, but not enough to be a leader.
Sales managers (I am not referring to an organizational formal role, but to an attitude also an individual contributor can show) are aware of the whole value chain and measure their results not only on booked business, but also on "paid business" and net profit (this is easy when your value chain is short, for instance small business or consultants); better, but still not enough to tell you a leader.
Good sales managers (again not talking about a formal role) are measuring themselves also on their portfolio - how effective they where in building a profitable and lasting customer relationship against sporadic ones; this is tough because it involves some hard decisions.
Strategic sales managers are measuring themselves, in addition to all previous indicators, on the quality of their portfolio: how many strategic customers do I have? Do my customers foster and possibly contribute to our RD strategy? Are they aligned with our vision? This are exceptional sales managers, as they significantly contribute to the present and future of the company. Still, they are not leaders.
Leaders are those who foster this awareness in their people and make them as well become at least strategic sales managers, because this is what multiplies their result.
Of course there are patterns that could be found in those who become leaders in the sense I just described, but they become evident only in the light of goals and results. It depends on where and how we define the goal to be. I could have an economic goal and stress other factors (think of the conditions of workers in factories in Bangladesh), or have a goal of increasing reputation as a marketing tool or employer branding strategy, or have the ambition to combine profit and social impact. I guess the greatness of a leader is first of all defined by the quality of the goals he sets and finally by the results that he actually achieves.
I hope you will integrate this partial point of view with complementary insights and eventually help me develop my point of view to a more aware one, thanks in advance for your comments and sharing.