The Fundamental Act of Leadership

April 20, 2009 0 Comments

More than three decades ago, James MacGregor Burns won a Pulitzer Prize for his book entitled Leadership. If you have a passion for leadership, you should read this book. The ideas he wrote about thirty years ago are what I label today as contemporary.

For Burns, purpose is paramount.

Some define leadership as leaders making followers do what followers would not otherwise do, or as leaders making followers do what the leaders want them to do; I define leadership as leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations – the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations – of both leaders and followers. (p.19).

It is entirely legitimate for followers to have expectations of leaders. It is the responsibility of leaders to become aware of and care about the expectations of their followers; however, I believe followers have a responsibility to communicate expectations to their leaders even if leaders do not initiate or invite the exchange.

Leaders don’t define purpose; rather, they identify the need for purpose and champion its power to motivate people to perform.

The leader’s fundamental act is to induce people to be aware or conscious of what they feel – to feel their true needs so strongly, to define their values so meaningfully, that they can be moved to purposeful action (p. 44).

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