Defenders make leaders

In my profession, I work with a lot of CEOs but not necessarily a lot of leaders. When I mentioned this to a friend he asked me how I could tell the difference between a CEO and a leader. I really did not have a concrete answer, but recently found one. Leadership is measured by the ways in which constituents address the leader in speech and by their actions of support. Think knights of the roundtable that dedicate their lives to the support of their king, their leader.

Leadership in Face-to-Face Interactions

Much of the work that I do is focused around coaching companies on strategy development, execution, and benchmarking. I was recently at a meeting where the leader clearly had everyone following but one.
When you are following a leader, you respect that leader like one might respect a king or queen. You craft sentences that lead with praise and throw a suggestion in at the end. For example: “The growth we are seeing in this initiative is outstanding, but have you considered this.” The first part of the sentence is a butterball that acknowledges the leader’s progress. The second part of the sentence makes a suggestion in a subservient way – asking the leader to educate or lead.

If you were not following a leader, the same sentence would be crafted differently. For example: “You should do this so that this initiate does not fail.”

Each sentence says the exact same thing, but the way in which the sentence is crafted changes the tenor in a significant way. The first part of this sentence demonstrates that the speaker is trying to lead the leader by giving the leader a direction. The second part is a leadership threat that indicates that if the advice is not taken, the leader will fail.

Leadership in the Courtyard

Outside of direct communication between leaders and constituents, there is also a tremendous measure of leadership that can be recognized in the courtyard. Lets face it, many constituents are politically savvy enough to play nice in front of the leader. True leadership is easier to measure when the leader is not in the room.

Out in the courtyard, people talk. And when they do, it is easy to measure leadership. Frankly, people who are not following the leader say disparaging things. Loyal followers are defenders and promoters of their leader. It is very transparent. Great leadership is defined when constituents recruit and aggrandize their leader.

In summary, business typically focuses on the things that leaders do to become great leaders. I would submit this argument that leaders are less measured by the things that they do, and more the measurement of the appreciation and respect they develop their flock.


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