Magazine article Management Review

The Development of Leadership

Magazine article Management Review

The Development of Leadership

Article excerpt

On entering the Army just after World War II, I met my first example of leadership.

We recruits were still in our civilian clothes and were milling around outside our barracks when a first lieutenant appeared. He was tall and trim. In addition to his Combat Infantry Badge, he had a chestful of ribbons, including the Purple Heart. He projected an image of no-nonsense authority, and we 18- and 19-year-olds lined up without his saying a word. Later, as I studied leadership, I was able to define the two characteristics he projected -- competence and character.

Competence is something that can be taught and/or acquired. As you acquire authority, you learn quickly that authority has two dimensions: authority of position and authority of competence. The former refers to you personally -- your title, office and perquisites. The fact that you arrive at the office driving your company car and wearing your Brooks Brothers suit will gain you some recognition of high status. Your subordinates may at first be awed by this show of power. But -- and, this is a big hut -- they will start testing to see if you know anything. Like it or not, in these democratic times, the ruler rules with the consent of the governed.

Competence permits you to ask the right questions and to know that you have received the right answer. Competencies are taught in an MBA or Ph.D. program in business. But to be an effective leader, one must practice these skills and develop perspective and judgment. Surgery, for example, is merely cutting and sewing. The reason the surgeon serves such a long apprenticeship is to learn when and how much to cut. The same thing applies to the development of a manager. To learn from books takes perhaps three to six years. But to develop as a president or a CEO takes 20 to 25 years just to acquire the competencies.

Leaders develop competencies and courage as a result of deliberate efforts of the organization to teach them. …

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