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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The When of Leadership

This post began as “Is Everyone a Leader?.” I quickly realized that this is truly determined though the crashing together of needed skills, desire or duty, the situation, and timing.

John Wayne typically played characters that are leaders – people follow him over the hill or turn to him for “The Plan.”

To the contrary, Leonardo DiCaprio's character Jack Dawson in Titanic rose to the occasion during the cruise. If he had taken the boat before or after the Titanic, would Dawson have made it to the First Class Deck and had a life changing effect on a rich girl?

Does the situation create the leader – even for those 'natural' or 'born' leaders? Being in the right place at the right time certainly has some weight.

I can recall a recently graduated MBA – top school, great student, head of the class – who joined my organization and spent several frustrating years casting about trying to be a leader with no success. He certainly had the training and abilities for the task, but was unsuccessful in bringing it off – during this period there was just no compelling situation which required a new leader to step forward.

On the other hand, during an early game in the 2004 ACC Basketball Tournament when the team was trailing, John Gilchrist slapped the floor and took leadership of the team – it was electric! Through his playing, encouragement of his team-mates, and creating a shared vision that the trophy was theirs, the University of Maryland basketball team won the 2004 ACC Basketball Championship. Gilchrist rose to the occasion and was clearly the leader at the tournament, but did not serve that role either before or after. Timing...the right circumstances...each member of the team playing above their best effort...all brought together under his leadership.

Leadership in an organization is 'assigned' to certain positions or titles – a team captain and  a company CEO are expected to be leaders. Often, situations develop which require a leader to address the situation or circumstance – either immediate or ongoing – and a person steps up to take the role. There is no magic pill here – the individual needs to have the traits & skills necessary to pull this off, but like Dawson (mentioned above), it just doesn't work too well if you missed the boat or took an earlier one.

The WHEN of leadership is an interesting issue – and there are many, many stories and examples of ordinary people rising to the situation at hand to become leaders.

This topic will become very rich and insightful through the sharing of such stories – PLEASE add a comment below with your favorite example of a 'made leader.'  By doing so, we may better understand the common elements and can apply this knowledge to develop potential leaders.

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Thoughthebrowser said...

Hot Dog! I get to go first! LINCOLN spent his whole life trying and failing at many, many tasks, getting ready for holding the Union together. It killed him, but what an accomplishment!

Unknown said...

Dick - Thanks for your comment.
Lincoln learned many lessons as he grew professionally and in politics - he had to draw from all of them to provide leadership for a country in crisis.

Lisa Molina said...

Hi Jack,

Everyone is leading. The question is where are they leading?

We can all expand our thinking.
Even those penned as the greatest of leaders (ie: Lincoln)

I am an example of a leader who is being made.
I am willing and I choose in for the responsibility.
This was daunting at first, as I didn't see myself as a leader. After 10 years of experiences and continuing to fail forward, I now know that I was leading all along.
Now I am aware of where I want to lead people to.

I am happy to say I teach others to take a look at this very question, "Where are you leading others to", because for sure, each of us, big, small, old, young, wise and ignorant, are leading.

With all of your experiences, Jack, do you agree?