Leadership: the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this.
The synonyms of ‘leadership’ are: guidance, direction, authority, control, management, superintendence, supervision; organization, government, orchestration, initiative, influence.
Some of these synonyms feel better than others, right? Most people will be slightly more comfortable with the notion of ‘orchestration’ than they are of ‘control’. And who doesn’t admire a bit of initiative? The truth is, however, that a successful modern business leader will have to control, cajole and orchestrate – and use her or his initiative in the process.
Tyranny in business leadership doesn’t go down well with stakeholders or staff. A good modern business leader is bound by certain boardroom behavioural protocols. Yes, much of this will just be the usual niceties and formalities that presage more serious conversation. But an interesting way to discover the value of something is to remove it. Consider a board meeting in which the CEO doesn’t greet anyone pleasantly or shake their hands. There is no concern for the ‘soft stuff’ – wellbeing, morale and families etc. The CEO just dives into the ‘meat’ of the meeting. How does that feel? Right.
A good modern business leader is one who exercises control via the human touch. In the military, it isn’t like this – or it is less like this. That is understood. No one expects a general to ask after a private’s personal affairs when conducting the business of war – or even training for it. Yet a good modern general may do just that – in measure. A good general may inspire his soldiers by respecting them and showing concern for their wellbeing. This general’s soldiers may be more likely to fight harder – and form more cohesive teams.
Ghengis Khan has had his day. By and large, in the west, we are lucky enough to live in a subtler and more human world. Modern business leaders are just as much a part of the teams they command as those at the ‘bottom of the ladder’. The only way is up.