Some years ago you had a very straightforward hierarchy on organizations. You got the big boss, the small boss and the little bees doing the heavy work. This structure was commonly accepted on the most of working environments and for the best or for the worst this was the way institutions themselves. It was used to identify accountability to create and remove incentives at work and the world seemed to be fine with it.
But another step of evolution took place and suddenly psychology academia start to note that the concept of Boss did not optimize in terms of getting the maximum value from the employee, or as these days they call, the collaborator.
If you want to reach another level of productivity, and this is specially important on very specialized fields, you need somehow to inspire instead of just impose yourself. And you don't need to have a PHd on sociology or psychology to recognize that people work better when inspired and with purpose instead of being ordered without any sense of mission.
There are many interpretations on the concept of leadership. Some etymological others more business oriented. The study on leadership is vast and we can get it pretty much anywhere. If on one hand the concept seems to be only grasped by a very reduced set of people on social sciences, on the other it seems that nowadays anyone is a specialist on the topic. If you do a quick search on LinkedIn you'll find a pretty fair amount of Talent Acquisition Leader specialists and you can find an entry for it on Glassdoor.
The traditional manager became place_here_whatever_you_want Leader and many other follow the same approach. Before the natural question of is this true? there is another that precedes it. Does this even makes sense?
After some hours searching in the internet information about the topic I stumbled upon a set of small sentences that I think describe accurately the properties should be present on someone called a Leader.
A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. -- Lao Tzu
A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit. -- Arnold Glasow
You don't need a title to be a leader. -- Mark Sanborn
The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things. -- Ronald Reagan
I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. -- Ralph Nader
I think leadership comes from integrity--that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbour makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring, activity. -- Scott Berkun
Leadership is the capacity to influence others through inspiration motivated by passion, generated by vision, produced by a conviction, ignited by a purpose. -- Myles Munroe
Leadership is unlocking people's potential to become better. -- Bill Bradley
The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes. -- Tony Blair
One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you. -- Dennis Peer
Personally I kind of agree with all these definitions of Leadership. They are all different, but they are somehow complementary and they paint a very accurate picture of what are the essential attributes that should be present in someone called Leader.
I agree with Dennis Peer and as a corollary I'm forced to conclude that:
Yet if we look to LinkedIn descriptions, to many roles inside our companies its hard to not acknowledge the paradox.
If you carefully read the previous descriptions on the concept of leader you'll notice some fundamental characteristics that you need to have to be a candidate of it. You'll need to
- Be Honest
- Be Courageous
- Inspire others by example
- Do the right thing
- Have a purpose
But then you notice that this is nothing new. More, these traits have been all around from the beginning of time. And more sadly these are not the attributes of most of the people we see in the managerial role. So if the typical Boss doesn't have any, or very few, of these attributes and therefore is far from to be considered a Leader why do they keep calling a thing they aren't?
So the question is why? Why do they call themselves leaders? My answer is
It is much easy to rebrand myself instead of change. It is Conway's Law presenting itself again, but with a different dress.
If this were the case the productivity and engagement levels would rise. Unfortunantly this is not what happens. Everytime Leader Travesty (once called Boss) is trying to disguise himself as a Legitimate Leader you got the oposite result. People is not stupid and, insisting they are, is where real stupidity lies.