Why is leadership portrayed in terms of how managers manage people? How can you be said to LEAD people when you have the authority to tell them what to do? Business leadership is often portrayed as a decision making exercise. The CEO decides what to do and that is called leadership.
But, another way of looking at this situation would be to conceptualize this action as a managerial or executive act, not one of leadership. An interesting point here is that the field of leadership studies has been dominated by people interested in CEO and business leadership but this is a narrow lens through which to study leadership.
A more general account of leadership sees it as an informal process, such as when you lead by example. Martin Luther King Jr. had a leadership impact on the US government when they ruled segregation on buses unconstitutional. This might be called informal leadership, but a different slant says that there is no such thing as formal leadership. When CEOs make decisions, they are wearing a managerial hat, not showing leadership. Another example of informal or pure leadership is thought leadership - champion any good idea to improve things and you can lead up, down and sideways without formal authority.
See also Leadership Defined.
Our primary image of the leader comes from the military. Great leaders have always been heroes, especially military heroes. Hero worship is OK if it inspires us to greater heights. But bad if it disempowers us, making us dependent on heroes. Military heroes know where to go and how to get there so can lead from the front. Organizations today need everyone thinking about new directions to pursue.
Advocates of servant leadership have admirable values and aims. It is thus unfortunate that they confuse the meaning of leadership with its application. We need a different concept, one that everyone can accept: the post-heroic manager.
Leadership can only be shown by influencing people to think or act differently, either by promoting a better way or by example. A green leader promotes sustainable energy use, for instance.
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