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In his 2013 Forbes article, “What is Leadership?,” Kevin Kruse attempts to define the subject by first analyzing what leadership is not, or more accurately, how individuals and organizations have mis-defined it.
Kruse debunks a few traits that many of us have come to accept as qualities of good leadership. He says that leadership is not about seniority, title or position. Simply meaning that reaching the level of manager or executive does not guarantee the qualities of a good leader.
In fact, Kruse posits that leadership has nothing to do with management. “Managers manage,” as Kruse puts it. “Leaders lead people.”
Probably the most intriguing aspect of Kruse’s hypothesis is that leadership has nothing to do with personal attributes. When asked to describe a good leader, Kruse says most people would spout off, “domineering, take-charge, charismatic individuals.” However, “we don’t need extroverted charismatic traits to practice leadership. And those with charisma don’t automatically lead,” says Kruse.
For these and other reasons, Kruse rejects other famous definitions of leadership, including those of Peter Drucker, Bill Gates, and John Maxwell. Instead Kruse sets forth the definition of leadership as, “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.”
I would take it a step further, or delve down into the idea of social influence, and include leading by example as one of the most important aspects of influence. As human beings, we naturally respond to those who have done what we are expected to do, know what we are expected to know, and show the same commitment to the goal we are all expected to achieve. It is why many of us expect politicians, in particular our Commander-In-Chief, to have served in the military. It also is a key part of Six Sigma for executives to know every aspect of the business they are entrusted to execute.
When I think of leadership by example, I think of Peyton Manning, the Pro-Bowl quarterback of the Denver Broncos. There is no doubt he is talented, some would say genetically pre-disposed (the off-spring of NFL quarterback Archie Manning and brother of another Super-Bowl-winning quarterback, Eli Manning) to be an NFL quarterback. But as Kruse pointed out, that’s not enough to make him a leader. However, Manning has a legendary work ethic, studying the playbook and hours of film and honing his communication skills to not only inform his teammates but also disorient his opponents.
Manning sat out the 2011 season with what, at the time, was considered by many to be a career-ending neck injury. However, just two-years later he will lead the Broncos in this year’s Super Bowl after having a record-breaking season. Now tell me that’s not the kind of guy you would follow.
For some other great examples of leadership by example, check out this month’s feature “Meet the Quality Leadership 100.”
Enjoy and thanks for reading!
Darryl Seland, Editorial Director