Great leader? LO6301

Archie Kregear (
Fri, 29 Mar 1996 13:53:23 -0800

Replying to LO6268 --

I read the following definition of a leader with much interest.

"So what makes a great leader?

The leaders are the ones who challenge the existing complacency and who
are prepared to lead their team forward towards a personal vision. They
are the ones who recognize problems, seize opportunities, and create their
own future. Ultimately, they are the ones who stop to think where they
want to go and then have the shameless audacity to set out.

-Gerard M Blair, Senior Lecturer, The Department of Electrical Engineering,
The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Email: - Home page:"

A few years ago I was struck by the concept of leadership, leaders,
leading and being led (often known as following). For about six months I
read everything I could find on this topic. Let me go through a few of my
conclusions and hopefully this will stimulate some discussion that will
provide further definition/refinement. Thanks in advance for all your

The definition above is a very good one. However in every concept of
leaders and leadership, there is the implied perspective of willingness to
follow. Take the person who is fed up with the complacency of life, has a
personal vision of heaven, sees all the problems around him, realizes that
it is a nice day and is willing to create a new future, shamelessly sets
out and jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge, nearly fits this definition as
well. I had to say "nearly" as this person would not be considered a
"great leader". I do not think that this person will have a large

This is why in almost every discussion of leadership that I read there was
a listing of personal character qualities that were important to leaders.
However, my conclusion was that character qualities are only necessary for
the follower to accept following, not necessary for the leader to lead.
This might be similar to a dinner's need to look appetizing in order to
appeal to the partaker of the food, but it has no impact on the
nutritional value. Some books went so far as to include only character
traits as a definition of a leader. However, I now believe that these
character traits should be pealed off of a leader, as they are a cloud to
the real essence of the leader.

The next struggle came as I wrestled with most of the writings that placed
leaders on a tall pedestal. Many of the authors only talked about dynamic
leaders, the Winston Churchills, the John Kennedy's. With this
perspective leadership is only available to the few. Leaders in this
sense tend to direct attention to themselves. However, as I looked at
what leaders really do, (and here is one area where I would like all of
you to dialog in this concept with me) all a leader really does is

To throw in Webster's definition of 'influence': "A power indirectly or
intangibly affecting a person or event."

We can all be leaders! Each providing slight nudges in the right
direction, influencing the outcome of mankind. In order to provide
significance to all individuals within society, especially those who are
young students, this definition of a leader being an influence is much
better. It removes the pedestal implication from leadership. It also
implies that you can influence negatively as well as positively.
Influence can be an individual act, where leader carries the connotation
of a position.

And I like this illustration from the mail-list today as a demonstration
of influence that somewhat breaks the "leadership" mold, but is very
effective. (Thanks Michael)

"And then there's the story about Milton Erickson as a small boy who saw
his father trying to get a cow to go into the barn. No matter how hard he
pulled on the rope, the cow wouldn't go in. Milton said that he could get
the cow into the barn. When his father challenged him to try, he pulled
on the cow's tail in a direction away from the barn and the cow pulled him
in." - Michael McMaster :

This is the arena of the personal interactions between the influencer and
influenced towards effectiveness. Thus the influencer's ability to create
situations where the influence is effective is a basic leadership skill.
This skill is the one that separates the good leaders from the rest of us.
Here the burden on the effectiveness rests on the leader and not the
follower. The effect is the measure of the leader in this case. And from
the illustration above, the goal of the leader (Milton), was accomplished
by getting the follower (the cow) to react, not act. Great leaders have
the ability to produce great effects.

Now Michael (Thanks again) provides the material;

> "to lead, without anyone knowing your leading, so individuals believe
>they are leading themselves."
I think the word, in English, is "manipulation".
- Michael McMaster :"

Influence can be like manipulation, or inspiration, or motivation, etc.
depending on the follower's perspective. It is I believe, more of a
characteristic of the follower (or of the object of the influence as
following implies acceptance of the influence), not the leader on how the
influence is perceived. This is related to the feeling evoked by the
influence and not to be confused with the effect of the influence. There
are some personal interaction skills by the influencer as to the feelings
brought forth in the influencing act, but this is more of an acceptance of
the leader by others rather than a measure of the leader's effectiveness.
For example, advertising is manipulative, but it's influence can be very
effective. Another option is leading with a whip or a carrot, the results
may be the same the follower's perspective will be different.

This take me to the last aspect of a leader; the measure of the quality
of the end result of the influence. All of the material I read placed
tremendous value on the final result of the leadership. Was the influence
to a noble goal? What was ultimately achieved? Here as in character
traits, I feel that this is a measure that is false. A leader can only be
defined on their ability to influence, not on what the followers were
influenced to do. However, a noble end is more admired with 20/20

Now here comes a new idea as I begin to understand LO. Great leaders are
not always figure heads in an LO. More often than not they are, (to use
some words I have read on the list this week) shepherds, facilitators,
mentors, etc. and in fact a great leader may be a hindrance to a LO. A
great leader may produce a company of followers and not teams of empowered
people. Instead, the LO, collectively, becomes the leader. The person
with the vision will have the "shameless audacity to set out" to the end
of making the organization the leader. (Your comments/reactions/thoughts

Archie Kregear

"Everything here is of my own writing and thoughts. I do not represent any
other person, company, organization, government with the words above." AK

-- (Archie Kregear)

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