Leaders don't need to be Generals

Nearly all leadership models are composed of tactics. Combined with our short attention span the military model of leadership seems to be what people understand and sensationalize. The trouble with applying this model in everyday circumstances is:

  • It assumes near complete control of the team
  • The team are automatons
  • The main sub text of this leadership is violence and aggression
  • Leaders can use nearly any means necessary for compliance
  • War and violent events create sensational news stories that punctuate our memory, hence military heros stand out as a part of that sensational event.

So what is everyday life like ? Would you apply these techniques on your kids ? Co-workers ? In a classroom ? I feel military leadership has a place, that is, when someone is asked (or made) to ultimately sacrifice their lives to protect a free and peaceful society from ideological aggressors. When bullets are flying, we don't have the luxury of collaboration. But by its very nature, the violence of war and fighting negate the fundamentals of everyday leadership, which is to foster the best in us. Violence is the exact opposite of this; it is the worst in us.

So we need to dissolve the notion that the 'man on the balcony' style of leadership is anything more than a softened military general. Leadership is participatory. Without keen and active participants, leaders are just dictators.

People are not cogs

People just want to be treated like people. Even in production-based work environments, people are not cogs. Thinking that people are just cogs is unimaginative and the fast-track to business failure (not to mention depression). Why do managers see people as cogs? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • 1. They don't understand their business enough to design processes for efficiency.
  • 2. Not enough leadership is provided to have them act any other way
  • 3. Manager's self-importance (this often has deep roots)

I think that this HBR article does a great job of elaborating my comments...


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