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Leading Not Leadership

I've always believed that leading well is all about motivating people to want to follow you rather than telling them they have to – inspiration, not coercion. Sounds obvious, but it amazes me how many people appear to think the opposite.

Which is why I rather like this post from Matt Moore that neatly defines the difference between people who lead ("they go somewhere – literally or metaphorically – and other people go with them") and an industry that has grown up around leadership:

'"It focuses on 'being a leader' rather than 'leading' and hence deals with characteristics & qualities rather than actions. Thinking that training courses & seminars will help you lead others more than actually, y'know, trying some leading is misplaced."


"It focuses on the individual (allegedly) doing the leading rather than the mass of people moving a direction (or more often several related directions). This allows the majority of us to disown our responsibility to lead ourselves: 'I can't do this, I'm not the leader.'"


This reminded me of a recent TIME magazine interview with Nelson Mandela in which he talked about the need to both lead from the front (whilst not leaving your base behind) and leading from the back (letting others believe they are in front). It relates the story of how Mandela began negotiations with the apartheid government in 1985, after decades of advocating an armed struggle. It was a huge risk – many of his colleagues in prison thought he was selling out – but through patient and personal explanation he slowly and deliberately brought them along.

"If you want to be a leader", says Matt,"then try some actual leading. Head off somewhere and see who comes with you."

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