- a vision
- the best idea moving toward that vision
- a leader proposing that idea
- a cohesive group wanting to follow that idea
A test for leadership:
- Followers = Leadership happening
- No followers = no Leadership happening.
- a symbiotic relationship, mutual influence, agency
- a cohesive group – a social identity – ideally using tested and proven interpersonal tools to share information, make decisions, resolve conflict, etc.
- a transformational process creating the group, determining its identity, developing these individual and group visions
- again ideally, the opportunity for any individual at any point in time take leadership of a team by means of the team's acceptance of that individual's idea for moving the team forward - that leadership possibly being momentary or lasting as long as it takes for the team to achieve their vision
Which leads us to some other notions to address, such as authority vs. power.
If one of the “proofs” of seeing leadership is to also see followers, what about situations where people are forced to follow?
We see lots of projects in the software industry become “forced marches” and some so dire they become “death marches”. Usually no programmers die, thankfully, no matter how poor their programming or teamwork, although some project managers contemplate homicide followed by harakiri.
In these cases, are we seeing leadership?
Hence the more precise way of describing followers by adding the adjective “willing”. If the person heading up a group has to resort to coercion or some other form of power – typically fear – then should we say that person is demonstrating leadership? I believe a consensus would say no. People forced to follow the person in charge in any situation would not be considered willing followers and hence the person in charge would not be considered leading.
Can we then make a distinction between power and the use of power in the sense of force, and authority?
If, as we see regularly in our teamwork retreats called BootCamp or ResultsCamp, the team (our cohesive social group above) willingly follows the current “best idea”, and in effect the proposer of that idea, then we can say the team confers authority of leadership upon that proposer. On the strength of that idea, and the team's understanding that to continue to progress toward their vision they need to act on the current “best idea”, authority to lead automatically flows to the proposer of that idea. Or even more accurately, leadership authority flows to those who begin action on that idea.
What we see then in our Camps is the following proven scenario:
- the team members develop their individual visions of their futures
- this impetus leads to the team readily developing a team vision
- the agreed and accepted stance of the team becomes a bias toward action to enact that vision
- this bias for action leads to the development of, and proposals to, the team, of ideas to move toward that vision – the elements of enactment
- the act of proposing an idea, and the team's acceptance of it, causes emergent leadership by the proposer, and then by those who act with authority to make that idea so
- leadership emerging from any team member at any moment
- the team conferring authority on these emergent leaders to move forward decisively based on action towards results
- this leadership lasting as long as progress is made, results are achieved, and the next “best idea” appears