Saturday, January 26, 2008

What leadership means

THE PRACTICE OF MANAGEMENT by Peter Drucker, renowned management expert, states that "leadership cannot be created or promoted. It cannot be taught or learned. Leadership is not magnetic personality – that can just as well be demagoguery. It is not making friends and influencing people – that is salesmanship."
"Leadership is the lifting of a man's vision to higher sights, the raising of a man's performance to a higher standard, the building of a man's personality beyond its normal limitations. Leadership requires aptitude and basic attitudes. And nothing is as difficult to define, nothing as difficult to change as basic attitudes. Practices, though humdrum, can always be practised whatever a man's aptitudes, personality or attitudes. They require no genius – only application."
The above is more than a mouthful and should cause us to contemplate the correctness or otherwise of assertions which, in recent times, have permeated our airspace. Tomorrow's senior positions will be filled by men who today occupy junior positions. Drucker argues: "I have yet to see any method that can predict a man's development more than a short time ahead."
Our nation has been blessed with leaders of immense talent. Needless to say, a critical review could easily disclose that some were more gifted than others but that each started from a position of minimal known expertise in the task of leading the country. Some achieved more than others. It could be argued that some achieved little.
Yet, our country has advanced and remains an object of admiration certainly for the wider Caribbean and for some countries by no means our neighbours. What factors contributed to these gains? Have we realised our full potential? The answer is a definite 'no'.
Our major contributors to success have been our educational facilities, respect for law and order, and our religious fervour. No wonder we have been able to change our leaders without unusual fanfare and by peaceful transfer of power. We have respected the notion that each man brings different qualities and that a man can learn only so much so fast.
The hallmark of management today is its success in facing adaptive challenges. Changes in societies, markets, customers, competition and technology are forcing leaders to clarify their values, develop new strategies and impose new operational techniques.
The Harvard Business Review of January 1997 quotes chief executive officer of Scandinavian Airlines, Jan Carlzonas, saying: "One of the most interesting missions of leadership is getting people on the executive team to listen to and learn from one another. Held in debate, people can learn their way to collective solutions when they understand one another's assumptions. The work of the leader is to get conflict out into the open and use it as a source of creativity."
Globalisation, whatever it means, requires leaders, accustomed as they are to solving problems themselves, to adopt new methods. Drucker argues: "Leaders do not need to know all the answers. They need to ask the right questions. --(Nation News)

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