I apologize in advance for using a sports metaphor, but it provides useful guidance in the role of the leader in providing direction and guidance to a team. In American football, the leader has to work within the box provided – the yard markers, the out of bounds lines and the end zones and the other people on the team. The leader’s job is to provide sound strategies and communicate observations that the players cannot see from their own vantage point. The leader communicates this in the form of plays, but the leader being from only one vantage point too, knows all plays cannot be called from the sidelines. Some plays need to be called from the huddle, and some while on the line and finally while within the play itself. It would a pointless game if a player while during the execution of the play followed all the direction given by the leader if an opportunity arose and a change to take advantage of the opportunity was not taken.
Not being on the field of play, the leader knows that while he or she is responsible for the overall outcome, the leader is not in control nor has all the information necessary to execute the plays that will allow success.
The leader is a passive influence, and expects players on the field to not only execute the play called but to stay open and react to opportunities that come up and expects that a change in activities on the field will be made should the opposition not react in ways predicted. Of course both parties – leader and player rest on a foundation of the constraints placed on them by the field of play. As such, they pour all their energy, creativity, innovation and muscle into that which they are given. The most successful can be out of the box while constrained within a box. The leader succeeds as a leader by working within a mutually interdependent system, the likes of which he or she only has partial control. The best leaders realize this and respond to the realities of the situation.
What is your opinion on leaders and leadership? I welcome your comments