Bosses vs. Leaders LO5595

William J. Hobler, Jr. (
Mon, 12 Feb 1996 17:13:19 -0500

Replying to LO5477 --

Steve Cabana wrote

>leadership always puts formal authority at risk which is why it isn't
>often done.

May I take exception with this limiting view? Leadership can be practiced
by people in whom formal authority is vested, and people who work for them
can be leaders. General Erwin Rommel was embedded in a highly
authoritarian system yet was a leader, his officers also were leaders.

In some cases it takes a great deal of courage to lead in these
situations. I am not qualified to judge whether or not Rommel had to
battle the hierarchy to be allowed to lead, surely this would have taken
courage. Mr. Schindler (of "Schindler's List") was certainly a leader and
had to have courage to be one. However, the officers working for Rommel
were probably not required to have courage to be leaders under Rommel.

>When anyone is given formal authority they have certain key social
>functions to perform from the point of view of the members of the system:
>1. Protect us from threats (protect our boundaries or borders)...
> - from each other
> - from the outside

I think the leader's role is to connect us to each other and to the
outside. In part it is to protect us from the outside. I think it is
more productive to have a goal to assure the clarity and conciseness of
communications with the outside. To many channels of communication (more
than one) invites misunderstanding.

>3. Control conflict...

In my experience controlled conflict is counterproductive. Feelings get
suppressed and people begin to withdraw. I think it better to get all the
feelings and conflict up into view. If possible practice 'dialog' if not
have the conversation facilitated to resolve conflict rather than control

Conflict is an opportunity to learn and create. The artistic community
almost always operates in conflict with the 'norms' of society, it is a
way of learning.

>4. Serve as a stable reference point which people can orient to in defining
>their own role or place in the group...

IMHO the organization's goals (vision) and values should provide the
stable platform from which its people operate. If these are shared then
people can feel safe in their role and place.

To me the leader is obliged to provide a sanctuary, a safe place, for
people who are, or are about to, burn out. In a learning, high
performance organization we ask a great deal of our people. Taking care
of people means affording them a place to recharge their batteries as

>5. Set the direction in the form of providing goals or answers to our

True leaders will provide few answers. If the problems are the
responsibility of other people then they are called to their
responsibility. If the person with the problem has the responsibility,
then the leader is well advised to illuminate the problem. I personally
like the Socratic method and ask questions that do not lead to a
particular answer. Rather questions that lead to knowing all of the
issues involved and what must be done to resolve the issues.

I would add another social function to your list and argue that it is more
important than the other five.

6. To provide for the growth of each of the followers. The growth is
in both the personal and professional realms.

Should the leader be successful in encouraging the growth of his/her
people the changes imposed by the environment will be accommodated by the
people. It is only be continual growth/learning that people and
organizations remain flexible enough to change with or ahead of change.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It's better at sea  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~                         Still a Submariner
     William J. Hobler, Jr.               Preferably Bill
Learning ensures an exciting future, for yourself, for your 
family, friends, and colleagues.  Buy some insurance, ask a 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   ~ ; )  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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