This article was originally published on APM.
Leadership is such an interesting and evocative abstract noun. It conjures up a variety of different expectations, experiences and contexts. Despite the enormous amount of literature about leaders and leadership over the ages, there is still much debate over the essence of leadership.
‘What is leadership?’ is such a simple question, yet it continues to draw extensive debate. My favourite definition of leadership is:
A set of skills enabling an individual to have followers. This individual may or may not have formal authority or a hierarchical position, but they are highly visible and set a positive example.
Traditional views of leadership tend to focus on a formalised role, title or hierarchy – on centralised command and control. These views often emphasise the ‘lone’ hero or maverick. More recent views of leadership have introduced an emphasis on social and ethical behaviour: Richard Greenleaf (1970) has given us the concept of servant leadership; Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1994), David Chrislip and Carl Larson (1994), David Archer and Alex Cameron (2008), and Ken Blanchard (2015) have developed the idea of collaborative leadership; Daniel Goleman (2003) has given us ideas around emotionally intelligent leadership, Bill George (2004) authentic leadership, and Deborah Ancona (2007) incomplete leadership.
Leadership and change
In today’s context – think climate change, disruptive business models, refugees and economic migration, artificial intelligence, globalisation, extended supply chains, data harvesting, exploiting new energy sources – leadership is about change. And this is how it connects strongly with the project world. We recognise that projects introduce change, especially those major complex projects involving infrastructure, digitisation and organisational transformation. Continue reading “What is leadership? The big debate…”