Leadership 101

Some time ago, Mr. Chips had occasion to pop into a business and have a chat with The Manager. (Whether or not he spoke with the actual manager, or merely the assistant manager on duty, is still up for grabs. It seems that every other person you talk to these days is a "manager", the question of whether they actually know anything about the management process notwithstanding.)

At any rate, the ensuing discussion left us more convinced than ever that one of the major problems in this country is a surfeit of management and a dearth of leadership. Perhaps this is because leadership is no longer taught. Or perhaps it stems from society's aversion to risk,which is an inherent part of leadership. Or perhaps a little of both.

Some years ago, The Old Sarge got into it with an instructor at one of the service schools (where the emphasis really should be on leadership, not management). His contention was that one does not "manage" people. One manages manpower, which is a resoucrce, but people must be led.

Of course, in order to lead people, one must understand what motivates people. It is our considered opinion that people are motivated by one of three considerations: compulsion, gain, or -- for want of a better word -- altruism.

There are far too many in this world who are motivated only by compulsion. They do what they must, and no more. And one who must be compelled at every turn is largely worthless.

There are some who are motivated by gain. They show up and do a good job because of the prospect -- however dim -- of advancement. They act in the belief that doing a good job will result in a reward of some form or another. Beware those, however, who will dream up self-aggrandizing schemes in order to get gain.

The best -- and the fewest -- are those who will do what is right solely because it is the right thing to do, without regard to gain or loss. Such are the true leaders. And of such is the Kingdom of God made.

Management carries very little risk, and what risk there is can be spread throughout the much-vaunted "team". Teams are wonderful because the risk can be spread so thin that no one seems to be to blame when things go awry -- as they most assuredly will, from time to time. A leader accepts that risk. The other inherent risk of leadership is that others might not follow.

The challenge of leadership lies in inspiring others to do what they might not otherwise do on their own initiative. One of the greatest military leaders of the 20th century -- and perhaps any century -- knew how to inspire his people:
"Be an example to your men, in your duty and in your private life. Never spare yourself -- and let your troops see that you don't -- in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered, and teach your subordinates to be the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide."

Now, who said that? Eisenhower? Nope. MacArthur? Uh-uh. Patton? Close, but no cigar. Kennedy? Not a chance.

Hang on to your seat. It was Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. (Small wonder that he was able to take over all of North Africa -- albeit briefly -- despite an insane shortage of logistics and despite his own wounds and illness. And he did it by leading from out in front, not by "managing" from a rear-echelon desk.

The next time you hear some cretin running for public office and prattling on about "managing" things, give a thought to what can be done through leadership.


At 11:15 PM, February 07, 2009, Blogger Ted said...

We don't need managers, and we certainly don't need altruistic leaders - like the ones who have "lead" U.S. to spend ourselves into oblivious debt so ragheads can live of us thoughtlessly.
We need individual liberty...Especially from all the charlatan "experts" who say it's obsolete!

At 6:23 PM, February 10, 2009, Blogger Master Doh-San said...

True, altruistic leaders are irrelevant. Simple leaders who abide by correct principles will suffice.

And remember: the Titanic was built by experts; the ark was built by an amateur.


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