Is Leadership Nonsense Talk?


“The lesson we know by heart; we just have to learn it”
Beto Guedes

In his last press interview before his death in 2005, Peter Drucker, aged 95, said: "All this talk about leaders is foolish and very dangerous. It's all nonsense talk"

I was surprised, because, as we know, it is a declaration from the "Pope of management", author of over 40 books about leadership. But the explanation came quickly. He said he became sad to see that in the 21st century people were still searching for those who command despite the bad examples of charismatic leaders like Stalin, Hitler and Mao.

We know that in organizations today the control over people/behaviors ("they give the orders, you obey them”) was replaced by results control. Leading suffered a radical change.

But is this what we've seen in our consultants practice? What do we need to reflect about leadership in organizations? What needs to be developed in organizational leaders?

Deepak Chopra, renowned Indian guru who lives in United States, loved by some and criticized by others, tells us about the essence of leadership in a simple way that can help us in this reflection:

L- Look and listen
E – Empowerment
A – Awareness
D – Doing
E – Emotional freedom and empathy
R – Responsibility
S – Synchronicity

In a recent article analyzing the essential features of leadership described by six large and successful companies we found that, although spoken with different words, the essence of leadership is very similar.

I hope I am not committing any injustice by including this, but one comment from a reader of that article said: "Today, the companies say the same things. Once you read one, you read all of them".

One of the companies outlined brilliantly, in my view, the essence of leadership in three roles, highlighting the importance of balance between them.

Manager – to manage people, projects and processes with a focus on results
Educator – to develop new leaders, encourage teamwork
Transformer – innovation of products and services

To cite a more current author about this subject, let's discuss Ram Charan, a consultant, lecturer, and adviser to CEOs and executives in companies around the world. He translates leadership into eight competencies.

1. Positioning and repositioning (business)
2. Identifying external changes
3. Commanding the social system
4. Assessing people
5. Shaping teams
6. Setting goals
7. Setting accurate priorities
8. Facing forces that transcend the market.

Do these points not seem familiar to us? Like dèja vu?

This is what happens: we already know all this, but why don’t we see it?

Why in the 21st century do leaders know that leadership is not to control people but to control outcomes, yet in practice they do not follow this key approach?

Peter Drucker and Ram Charan can help us here when they tell us about the importance of learning, practicing, improving and refining your leadership skills until they become natural. The professional must master the ability to employ leadership skills on time and in the correct combination when each new situation is presented.

According to Charan, leaders are built when they practice competencies through the appointment of deliberate and challenging tasks, combined with a self-reflection about their personal characteristics.

That is, the leaders already know what it is to be a leader; what they need to do is practice it.

For this reason, Ram Charan talks about expertise as the essence of successful leaders; it is what separates the producer leaders (who produce results) from the non-producer leaders. Charan also talks about execution as the discipline to achieve results.

It is interesting that after 40 books Peter Drucker’s "ultimate legacy" was a practical work approach, whereby leaders/executives are challenged to reflect about issues they face on a daily basis. In other words, they are guided to practice. It is therefore necessary to develop this ability to put into practice what is already known.

In addition, it is necessary to make leaders believe that when collaborators are connected with what is expected of them, are motivated and have the freedom to dare and to create, they will be allies and actors in the process of achieving results.

And is this not what is expected of them? That they achieve results with people. To efficiently "use" the resources they have, including people, allowing them to be true collaborators.

Is that easy? No. It’s a challenge!

Leadership is a challenge to make things happen. The challenge is to make others be somebody. And this is where greatness lies.

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Thelma M. Teixeira is Project Consultant of Dasein Executive Search. Psychologist, psychodramatists, post-graduate in Business Administration, expert in Organizational and Work Psychology and in Clinical Psychology. She is the author of: Psicodrama Empresarial – o que, porque e como fazer. Publisher Santa Clara – 2008. Professor of the Brazilian Society of Psychoterapy, Group Dynamic and Psychodrama and of the Brazilian Federation of Psychodrama. To speak with Thelma, send an email to: thelma.teixeira@dasein.com.br.

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