Leadership is Overrated – Part II

Before I begin the next phase of my leadership rant, I will recommend a great book. This book is called ‘First, break all the rules‘ by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. ‘First, break all the rules’ analyzes what great leaders do. This is backed up by close to 25 years of research by the popular analytics firm, Gallup and is a gem.
Moving onto the issue itself – my hypothesis is that every organization doesn’t need tons of great leaders.
Can you imagine Apple with 2 Steve Jobs like personalities? Can you even imagine the kind of fireworks that would cause? (And historically, it did. Jobs did leave Apple and come back..)
What has worked for Apple is to have Steve Jobs lead the charge and have many great managers all the way down who stay true to Jobs’ philosophy.
Similarly, every great organization has a few leaders on top and the rest below are simply great managers. If we go back to the ‘shirtless dancing guy’ episode, that group did not need 10 shirtless dancing guys, they just needed one. In fact, 10 such guys would have only divided the group and caused chaos..
The point I am trying to make is simple – Leadership is a talent. Just like football. There’s only so much you can do to ‘instill’ leadership qualities. Schools can give students opportunities to lead but all this does is bring out the ones who have the talent.
Great management, on the other hand, can be learnt. And, as a result, taught. Great managers can codify what they do and pass it on. That’s precisely what ‘First, break all the rules’ does.
That’s not to say great management is easy. In truth, it is bloody difficult. Imagine you are a star in a football team to whom natural talents come easy. Now imagine you make the transition to managing a team – having to bring together a group of likely less talented lads, having to control a couple of arrogant stars and having to just be the ‘catalyst’ and make your group succeed. Suddenly, it is not about you. There is no place for insecurity.. there is only place for coaching, mentoring and letting people do their thing.
The good thing however is that it is difficult, not impossible. I would argue what we need is not a world full of leaders. We just need more potential great managers – people bred with self confidence rather than insecurity, bred with the understanding that competition doesn’t decide self worth but is only worthwhile to help maintain perspective and bred with the understanding that leadership is not everything.
It would help us remember that people do not leave companies, they leave managers. And great companies/organizations as a result simply have many great managers. And we need more great organizations in this world.
And by great, I mean purely in terms of quality.. (I hope you did not naturally picture a mammoth organization when you heard ‘great’ – if you did, then it’s not necessarily uncommon and that’s a discussion for another post.. :))
To be continued (1 more post to go..)