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Ramblings of a wanderer

Defining Leadership

14 Sep 2006

From the Oxford English Dictionary–

[to] lead (v): conduct, guide, esp by going in front; direct movements, actions or opinions of
leader (n): person followed by others

So, let's go over that one more time.

person followed by others... directing their movements, actions or opinions

The whole thing instantly conjures up images of a Seargent carrying his platoon through the tall grass or a Captain marching his company into battle. Respect, Trust,... Glory!!!
So what's wrong with that? Nothing, except that contemporary corporate culture seems to be the only place where the word Leader immediately follows the word Team. "So,” you ask, "what's wrong with a team having a leader? Most normal thing in the world!" Or so you think...!
If you look at the above analogies colsely, you will notice that neither a platoon, nor a company is a team. They are hierarchical structures built into the military chain of command!
A Team is...

... made up of peers, equals that function as equals.

Peopleware
By Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister


Even the military accepted this when they came up with the idea of special-purpose (ops) teams. Such teams comprise specialists who set aside their ranks to funnel their respective skills into attaining a single, common goal. Teams in our industry have no reason to be an exception.

For all the deference paid to the concept of leadership (a cult word in our [software] industry), it just doesn't have much place here.

Peopleware
By Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister


Managers/Leaders are never part of the team for the simple reason that they can never be peers; another point sufficiently emphasized by TDM & TRL.
Besides, we're talking creative people here. Creative people are inherently Intelligent! They don't need to be led around like some pack, and they sure as hell don't want to be!
What's even more amazing is the kind of stuff that gets passed off as Leadership qualities, things like:
Parting thought: With all the talk of situational leadership, we seem to want the same people to pick up the flag in all the situations!