The mainstream view of the leader is as the quarterback or command-and-control general. It’s changing, but those views seem the most common.
Different models for leading work better for different situations. Alternative models that I find work more often are that
- The leader serves his or her followers, see “Lessons in leadership from Frances Hesselbein, part 1“
- The leader is like a gardener, see “Jack Welch’s Gardening Model of Leadership“
Another model I’ve used in teaching that applies to leadership comes from one of my physics professors who has become a friend since the early 90s. He plays piano and often accompanies singers. He views the singer he accompanies as the main performer and the role of the accompanist to make the singer look good and to support the singer.
He views the teacher’s role similarly. While most people see the teacher as the authority in charge in the front of the room, he sees the students as the stars, doing the hard part worthy of applause. He sees his role as teacher as supporting the students, who are the performers of note.
I’ve come to see leaders similarly. An effective leader supports the people actually doing the work, who are the performers of note, and whose work demands praise if the team achieves its goals.
The situation determines what belief helps the situation most, so I don’t prescribe any model for all situations. Sometimes the situation needs a quarterback, but I find these supportive roles useful a lot more often.
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