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Inspirational Leadership Versus Management

Courtesy 123rf.comRecently, I had lunch with a longtime friend, colleague, and former CEO who has established a change management consulting practice. Our discussion centered on the topic for which we both share a keen passion; Leadership – Such a rare commodity these days. There are people serving in key positions everywhere that traditionally represent “leadership” roles, but unfortunately, the real art of leadership has been lost or forgotten.

My friend quoted something he had heard recently from another of our mutual friends. It seems this other man, also an experienced CEO with great credentials, opined that :

Among all of the people serving as CEOs these days,  20 percent are outright incompetent, the next 75 percent are managers but not leaders, and the remaining 5 percent are the true leader types.

If these numbers are true (and I can easily agree with the summary), what does that say about the current state of our workplace, not to mention its future? How many CEOs have been selected without a valid assessment of true leadership capability?  Are the boardrooms of America so easily swayed by economic drivers that they fail to seek core leadership competencies when selecting their next CEO? Are financial gains alone the only barometer of past performance? Has inspirational leadership been left out of the equation?

With all of this said, I firmly believe that our business, community, and political leaders can, in fact, be revived. Things have to start with admission that a change in focus is needed. I am talking neither about mandates from external forces nor directives from executive committees. Rather, I am talking about individual commitment to increasing leadership influnce.  People in high office need to ask themselves the key question “do I know what real leadership means”?

Recent management theory and academic wisdom has been clear to differentiate management from leadership. In his book “The Superperforming CEO”, Dave Guerra has taken the position that :

  • Management governs process, but
  • Leadership inspires people.

6967713_sI like that distinction. It seems facts can be readily found to support the idea that ‘good management’ can achieve a certain level of favorable performance for any organization. But superperformance comes where there is a distinct influence by strong leadership.

What are your observations? In upcoming posts I will spend more time talking about these factors.