Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leadership--the Intangible

Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it. Omar N. Bradley

I get a lot out of this quote from General Omar Bradley because it underscores the fundamental nature of leadership. Leadership is not a physical thing and it must be done by people--leaders. I do not believe leadership can ever be relegated to a computer to recreate. It is a skill about handling and motivating people.

So there you are---a great technician, fully knowledgeable in your area of expertise. Loving being a technician. You could be a great teacher, or a research engineer, or a software designer.

A recognized expert in your field.

Respected by peers and superiors.

And now suddenly you find yourself "promoted" into a leadership position. They (notice how we often refer to leadership above us as , "they?") want you to lead a team.

Scared? Yeah, if that is what happened to you, you should be scared because good technicians make good leaders only with assistance and if they have not offered you assistance--you are being set up for a lot of frustration and potentially failure.

That means that you must actively search out and get leadership advice. Notice I said leadership and not management. You are a manager--we all are managers. We all manage things in order to survive: the fuel in the gas tank, the money in the checking account, the groceries on our shelves. So being a manager at work is fundamentally no different than what we do every day.

But . . .

Leadership is different--it involves people.

It is intangible.

It is not easy and there is no cookbook formula for success. Why? Because every team and every person and every task in different. A good leader is able to find the style, the motivation, the approach for the specific situation or mission.

It took me a long time to understand the subtleties--but that is why leadership in the US Navy was always seemed so different from the leadership I did as an officer in the US Air Force. But now I understand, there is a different mission and set of standards that must be followed on a naval vessel as compared to an Air Force Base.

That is why leadership of a small church group is so different from leadership of a work group charged with a specific task.

The skills are similar--but are not identically transferable.

So what is needed? A discussion of the basic principles of leadership and tools for the tool box.

Most important though? Leaders need to see the person in each team member.

It is through motivating people to achieve that leaders succeed.

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