“Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”
– James MacGregor Burns
James MacGregor Burns’ quote resonates with most of our experiences. We see leadership occurring all around us, but rarely take time to reflect in a systematic way on what makes this leadership helpful or unhelpful—effective or ineffective. Further complicating our observations, at times we see people leading well who have no formal positions of leadership within our organizations, and at other times we see people in positions of leadership who really are not providing the necessary leadership direction for our organizations as we move into the future.
And so we come back to Burns’ comments: Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth. But must it be this way? Is leadership simply a mysterious reality? Is it something that we simply know when it is going well or poorly, but will never really understand what makes it work? Or might we be able to provide some basic descriptions of the form and shape of good, helpful, and effective leadership? Might we be able to get at some minimum factors that characterize both what helpful leaders and leadership look like?
Leadership Can Be Learned
Part of my vocational calling is providing thoughtful responses to such questions. I believe leadership can be described and studied. I believe it can be learned. Not every person is wired to be a capital “L” Leader. However, just about everyone embedded in an organization, group, or family can grow in and learn how to positively influence and guide the people around them.
This is the heart behind why I’ve started blogging at purposeinleadership.com. Although I’ve been observing leaders in action most of my life, I’ve spent the last 15 years in focused study on the topic through various degree programs, organizational roles, research agendas, and teaching opportunities. I want to start sharing some of these lessons learned with a wider audience.
A Passion for Ridding the World of Bad Leadership
Harvard Business Review’s editorial mission is “to rid the world of bad management.” I have a similar passion in the area of leadership. Though I won’t be able to personally rid the world of bad leadership, I’d love to make a dent in this ambitious agenda. I want to spread a message…
- …that leadership is more about serving others than being served,
- …that people are the priority even in profit-driven sectors,
- …that leaders need to create organizations and societies that are not only productive, but also are fit for human beings,
- …that purpose in leadership is of central importance,
- …that leadership is vital in organizations that create value for those they serve,
- …that people will endure great hardship and sacrifice when they believe in what they are doing and feel their work and leadership has meaning and purpose,
- …that leaders have a God-given responsibility to care for the people they lead,
- …that core leadership characteristics and behaviors can be described,
- …that leadership is vital in working toward human flourishing in organizations and societies.
Thanks for Joining Me in this Pursuit
Although I don’t believe that everything rises or falls on leadership, I do believe that the pursuit of effective and healthy models of leadership is a first-order priority in our day.
Thanks for joining me on this journey toward good, helpful, and effective leadership. Our organizations and the people we serve as leaders deserve our very best!