There are many questions we need to ask ourselves about leaders and leadership. By doing so, we might choose or follow better leaders and make sure that those who are not doing what they should be doing are soon replaced by leaders who are capable of leading properly.
While there is a tremendous focus on leaders and leadership models, few people ask one of the most basic questions. That question is: why should we have leaders?
It seems like such an obvious question, but an examination of possible answers could be quite revealing …
Before attempting to answer the question, it might be worthwhile looking at a definition of leadership. There are as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders. For the purpose of this discussion, I will therefore provide my own definition. In my view, leadership is about the qualities, skills and actions required to take people to a better reality.
This definition can be applied to leaders in government, companies, communities and any small group.
So, in a nutshell, leadership is all about a better future. If it’s not, what’s the point of having leaders? Who wants a leader who does nothing to change reality for the better? Who wants a leader who will take people to a worse reality or a worse future? Nobody.
That begs the question: are the leaders we’re following taking us to a better future? And, if you are a leader yourself, are you taking people to a better future?
It stands to reason … if we’re already living in a perfect reality, doing as well as anyone possibly could, we would have no need of leaders. But we do not live in an ideal world and every reality could be improved upon. So, while there is a need to move to a better reality, there is a need for good leaders.
To answer the question as to why we should have leaders, we need to ask ourselves if we’re happy with the reality in which we currently find ourselves. If we’re not, we need to think very carefully about the leaders we choose or follow.
Another question to ask is: what better reality or better future is the leader wishing to take us to? If it’s a future in which he or she will benefit but which provides very little, if any, better future for others, be very careful. That’s not a leader. That’s an exploiter – someone who is exploiting position, influence, opportunity, people and many other things to get what THEY want.
Good leaders will have a vision of a future which benefits everyone and not just themselves.
If, therefore, we’re not happy with our current reality, it might be worthwhile looking for someone who has the qualities, skills and actions to take us away from our current, undesirable, reality to a better one.
Now democracies end up with leaders who receive the most support – the support of the majority. While democracy may be the best option we have at this stage in our journey as humans, the one flaw of democracy is that the majority is not necessarily right.
Companies and businesses are however not democratic entities – employees can’t vote the CEO or board out. Shareholders of listed companies can play a role in this regard, but not employees. If employees are unhappy with the leader of the company they’re working for, they will need to leave and look for a company with better leaders.
That doesn’t mean, though, that you cannot challenge your leader. The days of autocratic, power-full leaders who may not be challenged are fading. All leaders should be held accountable for their qualities, skills and actions, and we are the ones who should be holding them accountable.
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.