This article is a citizen contribution by Imre Lukacs.
Leadership is a huge topic with many different schools, theories, self-help books, articles and online classes about what it is and how leadership skills can be acquired. There are numerous websites out there that are devoted to the topic of leadership. Professionals as well as organizations with a pinch of self-respect enroll in and follow a commercial leadership program. We are enchanted by great leaders like Ghandi, Jobs, Mandela, and Kamprad that not only succeed to inspire but also to transform our world and our perception of current state and thus claim their well-deserved space in history books.
With such vast amount of schools, such as trait, skills, style, situational and contingency approaches, to name a few, there is certainly enough information out there to keep even the most ambitious student busy for a lifetime. Some are blessed with inherent propensity to inspire and lead, others with a mentor or role model to learn from and yet others with no natural inclination to leadership but curiosity to make sense of the ever changing world around us and perhaps be able to take charge of some aspects of this dynamic open system called life.
Regardless of which of the academic or commercial schools you confess to, leadership starts within oneself, with small and simple insights from the everyday world around us.
After a long week packed with work, practicing sonatas and studies (last meeting for my study group finishes at 8 pm Sunday evenings) I like to spend some quality time with my girlfriend. What better way of doing this than to watch a brainless soap opera on a Sunday evening. This obviously serves many purposes. It gives me ”boyfriend material cred”1, a break from seriousness and freedom to let my mind wander in any direction it decides is best for the moment. The benefit of having your antennas tuned in to the frequency range of LM (Leadership Modulation) is that you can pick up insights from unexpected sources, in this particular example from The Bachelorette.
For readers unfamiliar with the manifestations of white trash culture [editor’s note: we consider “white trash” to be a contemporary culture, so no derogatory sentiment should be inferred], the show circles around a Bachelor or a Bachelorette bound to find his/her sole (pun intended) mate amongst, typically 25, candidates of various background from the opposite sex.
Each episode circles around various displays of courtship (cocktail parties, one-on-one date, group dates, etc.) and is concluded with a rose ceremony. The rose ceremony is a modern variant of gladiator contests, where the lucky ones are given a rose and the not so lucky ones are sent home without a shot at the grand price. As the size of the group decreases with each episode, competition intensifies.
During one such episode unfolding in Verona (the setting for the greatest love story of all time), the 7 remaining fellows were awaiting the arrival of bachelorette. As Andi (the season’s bachelorette) arrived to meet up with the guys, Nick who previously received a rose (being safe from elimination in this round) swiftly grabbed her and pulled her to the side. The immediate reaction from the other 6 was: “What a jackass move, he already has a rose”. The grumpy atmosphere soon changed characteristic as the others realized and openly admitted that they’d do the same and they simply missed an opportunity to position themselves and spend some quality time with the bachelorette. This was not the first nor the last time that Nick seized the opportunity to spend some quality time with Andi.
Nick obviously displayed some leadership qualities such as initiative, self-confidence, alertness, persistence (as described in the trait approach2) ensuring his 15 minutes in the limelight and a make out session with the bachelorette. Later episodes revealed though that Nick was lacking some other important leadership traits, namely responsibility and sociability, making him a target for the rest of the candidates. As mentioned earlier there are as many definitions of leadership as there are people. You might rightfully think that Nick is not up to par with Jobs and Mandela, especially if you define leadership as a process to influence a group of people to achieve a common goal. Nick obviously missed that leadership, in contrast to “gogetterness”, is about a higher purpose than one self.
1. Balanced by a yearly fly-fishing trip in some remote forest with the boys.
2. Stogdil (1948) found 8 traits that are associated with leadership: Intelligence, alertness, insight, responsibility, persistence, self-confidence and sociability.