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Leading from the front

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

So much of pop leadership writing assumes there is a follower in the equation. This is a misunderstanding about the differences between leadership and management. Management is about the effective use of resources to accomplish things. Management implies structure and process. Management often happens with minimal leadership.

Leadership is about crafting a vision of possibility. Leadership precedes structure and process; it fills the void where established structures end or fail.  Leadership often happens without any management at all.  Leadership happens at the front lines, where the action is. All leadership is from the front, never from the back.

Leadership from the front is doing something that nobody has ever done before. It’s about going first.

It’s doing something that nobody else wants to do.

It’s making a decision that nobody wants to make.

It’s figuring out something that nobody has been able to figure out.

It’s expecting the heat and taking it.

It’s taking one more step when everyone else has quit.

It’s starting up again when everyone else is stopped.

It’s about taking a stand when nobody else will.

It’s often about being alone.

It’s always about commitment.

Most lists of great leaders will include King, Gandhi, Lincoln, or Mandela. Their contributions to history are real and legitimate. But real leadership happens everywhere, all the time, and leadership is not limited to circumstances of power or influence. Consider the stories of these ordinary people who showed extraordinary leadership through their actions. I’ll let you do the homework; and perhaps you have some good examples of real leadership in action too…

Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates

Tom Hornbein & Willi Unsoeld

Paul Anderson

Satyendra Nath Bose

Joe Kittinger

Roger Bannister

If you’re hungry for more good material on real leadership, see also:

This great post by Andreas von der Heydt about the 17 qualities and views of great leaders

Or Jim Kouzes’ discussion on unknown leaders

Maybe read Hermann Simons book “Hidden Champions of the 21st century

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  1. Michael Anderson
    November 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Why is it that management often isn’t composed of leaders?

    Thank you,
    Michael R. Anderson
    Equipment Validation Supervisor

    Pharmaceutics International, Inc. (Pii)
    Phone: (410) 584-0001 ext. 1222
    Direct: (410) 916-0805

    • November 20, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      Mike,

      Thanks for your comment. Management and leadership are distinctly separate actions. Leadership creates and defines, management maintains and operates. Effective leaders spend very little of their time managing. Effective managers spend most of their time managing. The real goal is to be competent in both, and know when the situation calls for leadership or for management.

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