Leadership has been on my mind more than usual recently. Last week, I published an article with my most comprehensive thoughts on leadership to date. It’s titled “In business and politics, opportunism crowds out leadership”, and I published it in two places: LinkedIn and Medium.
I got the idea for the post after having a conversation at work. I realized, over the course of the conversation, that executives speak as though leadership is ubiquitous in the world of business. Look near the top of your org chart. There are your leaders.
And it’s just not true.
I started to have a few thoughts. I thought about how common it is to have two different reputations in business: one with people looking at you from below, and one with people looking at you from above. In other words, some people carefully manage the impression they give their boss, while the people beneath them think something entirely different.
It also became clear how strong the incentives in business and politics actually are. I settled on a framework I called praise versus blame. There’s a huge incentive to collect as much praise as possible. There’s an equally strong incentive to shift as much blame as possible. That’s called opportunism. And it has to be the opposite of leadership.
I added some structure to the post. Specifically, I talked about the prerequisites for leadership, what I call the three G’s: a group, a goal, and a gavel. In order to have leadership, we need a group of people working toward the same goal. We also need a gavel, someone who can judge the performance of the group and its members. The person holding the figurative gavel might be the leader. It depends.
I wrote about how leaders use the gavel. I also wrote about how opportunists use the gavel. Even though business leadership is rare, I gave an example of a leader in business: Mark Zuckerberg. I gave some reasons I thought we’re most likely to find leadership from founders.
My post is the most comprehensive documentation of my leadership thoughts to date. I wanted to get what was in my head onto “paper”, as it were. I also wanted to give myself seeds for further writing. There’s a lot in the post that I could expand, and strengthen, in time. And I plan to do just that.