3 Theses on Leadership
Leadership is the core topic of my first book publication, entitled: “Leading When You Are Not the Boss – How To Get Things Done in Complex Corporate Cultures” (Apress, New York 2015). Basically, I argue that in an increasingly complex and constantly changing world, it is the personal talents of employees that holds the biggest value potential especially for large enterprises. As the 20th century management ideal of achieving economies of scale through the separation of work planning and execution fades into oblivion, companies should flatten their hierarchies, create space for self-organizing teams and allow lost giants to move freely within the organization to find the place where they can contribute the most value. The following 3 thesis are congruent with the book content yet represent a new summary of my position.
Thesis 1) Everyone is a Leader
In business literature, leadership often is presented as something extraordinary, a god-like quality which only few people possess and which is very hard to find. Yet in the private world, each and every one of us continuously acts as a leader of some sort – for example by organizing events with friends, by giving advice to foreigners on social media, and, as every parent knows, simply by raising one’s own children. It is time to acknowledge leadership as normal human behavior and to encourage and empower employees to develop their natural leadership potential at the workplace as well.
Thesis 2) Leadership is different from Management
In the corporate world, we associate the term ‘leadership’ with managers holding a position which allows them to hire and fire employees. Yet equating an interactive process with a formal position makes employees only want to move up the corporate ladder and become a manager; and it makes them miss the opportunities of being and acting as a leader already now, no matter what their official title. While some managers are also leaders, and some leaders are also managers, it is important to realize that most leaders do not hold a position of power, and that leadership often comes simply with doing a good job.
Thesis 3) Leadership can be Learned
No doubt: some people are natural leaders, possessing the ability to inspire, motivate and lead others without ever having taken any courses and trainings. Often, this is due to them possessing a good sense of their own self, of their strengths and abilities. If I am confident and authentic, others will sense my assurance and believe in our joint success. By claiming that leadership can be learned, I do mean, first of all, ‘learning’ and not ‘training.’ A lot of learning happens in normal life and on the job, and outside of formal training; and, vice versa, a lot of training does not lead to any learning. Second, I believe that learning to be leader starts with knowing oneself, and becoming aware of one’s inclinations and talents. Surely there are formal techniques and methods that can help us become better leaders, but the main objective should always be to understand and learn to leverage our natural dispositions.