Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Who Leads the Leader?

This blog post won't be very long and it's going to have more questions than answers, but I want to try to tackle one question: when the leader is at his lowest, who leads the leader? Obviously it's easy for anyone to lead when things are going well for a group. A good leader can step up and take control when things are not going so well. But when the leader specifically is struggling, to whom does he turn? I see three potential options that he has. First, he could rely on the support of others within his group. Next, he could turn to someone outside of the group. Finally, he could dig down deep within himself and realize that the unit is much more important than any individual issues that he has.

The first course of action is a leader who looks to others in his group for support. On the plus side, they will know the leader well and know his situation. A person within his group could speak knowledgeably about whatever problems the leader has. On the flip side, it would be hard for the group member to give an unbiased opinion and distance himself from the situation. Also, there is probably a reason that the leader has his position and the person he would turn to does not. Whether that person is not ready to deal with the leadership role or doesn't have the necessary personality traits, the leader is the leader because he deserves to be. So maybe consulting someone who isn't quite ready for that responsibility isn't the best idea.

The next possible choice is to consult somebody outside of the group. Positively, it would be easier for this person to give an unbiased opinion of the situation than it would be for someone involved in the group. In addition, one could find a person who is a leader in a different area that would be able to identify with the struggles inherent in leadership that a non-leader might not be able to understand. Negatively, it might be hard for this outsider to understand the group dynamic in a way that would be necessary for a proper solution. While I do like this option better than the first one, I think it still leaves something to be desired.

The last option is for the leader to look down deep within himself and summon what strength he has, realizing that he is just a small part of the whole. The unit should not have to suffer because he suffers. As I mentioned above, he is the leader for a reason. And that reason is that he has the capacity to fight through hardship. Whether that hardship is at the group level or the individual level it should not matter. The biggest negative here is that the leader runs the risk of internalizing his issues to his own and his group's detriment. However, the hope is that this man should be able to overcome whatever struggles he faces, that's why we call him a leader.

1 comment:

  1. We've already spoken about this post, but I'll just add a few thoughts here. The leader is a figure in a paradoxical position. By definition, there's no one to consult. That's why so many leaders have confidential sidekicks or consigliere. This is someone out of the line of fire (as it were)--someone not involved and able to observe more or less from the inside. But in times of crisis the leader is more or less alone. (Historically FAMILY is the key. Leaders have often had family members to consult.) Your argument is necessarily circular: the leader is the leader because he's leaderly; others who are not leaderly to some degree want or need to be led. So inevitably your "look down deep within himself" is the final move. Be, yes, beware "internalizing" too much. As you know, I'm all for some kind of alternative model of leadership (e.g. teaching)--collaborative to some significant degree; shared responsibility. A team does that at its best, but not, as you know, at its worst.