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Thursday, September 09, 2004


I've been hearing various political types trying to advocate a new definition for the word "leadership". Their new definition goes something like this:

Real Leadership is sitting back and letting your subordinates execute the Existing Plan.

Ensuring that your subordinates are holding up under the stress of a catastrophic situation, that they are playing nice with each other and that they're actually following the Existing Plan is a plain waste of time. Something as simple as getting out of your chair to make sure that the Existing Plan is applicable to a completely unexpected and novel situation would be a demonstration of obsessive micromanagement and could even be seen as a very un-leaderly display of panic. A Real Leader reacts to sudden catastrophe by sitting still and silently fidgeting.

A Real Leader is not someone who directs, manages, coordinates or rallies his staff around his vision, but rather he is someone who allows others to make and execute their own decisions as they follow the Existing Plan, and so earns the trust and respect of those beneath him. By doing nothing, he ensures all is done correctly; and we trust that he'll do nothing. His very existence is optional - only the idea of The Real Leader is required. And so the Real Leader becomes a disinterested, silent but comforting totem.

And at the same time, the Existing Plan is infallible and its execution requires no supervision, even in times of great stress. All contingencies have been planned for, and the staff could execute the Existing Plan in its sleep; real-time adjustments are never necessary.

Look around. See the people not taking charge of anything ? Notice how they do not direct your actions, but allow you to execute the Exiting Plan without distraction or guidance? They are Real Leaders.


Well, I'm not sure I agree with that. Could you tell?


Update: I see the Medium Lobster has a much more specific and hillarious take on the issue.

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