Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Dictator by Any Other Name...

Yesterday, I read a quote that made me think about the fundamental nature of leadership.

In the culture of the nineties, CEOs were “leaders” and union chief were “bosses”, regardless of the fact that unions [were] often democracies while corporations [were] almost always dictatorships.
Now, please take a moment, set aside your feelings about big business and/or organized labor and think about what is being said. I find two very important points.

First, the implication that the mantel of leadership evolves and migrates across social groups, i.e. leadership is a dynamic social process. However, in the contrast drawn between “leaders” and “dictators”, it eludes to the possibility that the heads of a modern plutocracy have preempted; or worst yet, hijacked and misapplied the title of “Leader” to their actions as a way to achieve legitimacy. While I find this an interesting and important issue, one entirely relevant to the current Leadership Epidemic, one I'll write more about in a future post, the second point is more pressing.

The second point, is the nature of the relationship between the leader and the lead; yes back to the relationship question. In a dictatorship the relationship between the members of society and their “leaders” is unidirectional. Additionally, the outputs beyond the minimal cost of survival, i.e. the cost of labor, accumulate to the heads of state rather than the members of society. Finally, most of the relationship work is done within the “Court of Leader” rather than between the followers and leaders, i.e. followers are not part of the system, rather they are an expense; are expendable.

In this analogy the legitimacy of the CEO as leader is put into question in the same way that a dictators claim to a rightful position is questioned by members of a free society.

In a previous set of posts, we investigated the question, “Does Most Leadership Suck?”. Many of your posts, even when trying to maintain a positive demeanor, answered in the affirmative. I suspect this affirmation is a symptom of the failure of organizational “leaders” to recognize the value of relationships among and between their shareholders.

The fundamental underpinning of leadership is the relationships that a Leader develops within his/her followers. For legitimacy, Leaders must develop two-way, mutually supportive relationship with their followers. When you have a dictatorship this does not happen.

What are your thoughts?

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Take care and enjoy...