assault or leadership?


came across this quote today when doing some research for a team development event the LifeTree team are faciltiating in October.

You don’t lead people by hitting them over the head; that’s assault, that’s not leadership. 

– Dwight Eisenhower

Yet, how often management and leadership can feel like brutality at the receiving end.  We can justify this as leaders: ‘…we have to get the job done after all.  We have to make things happen.  You can’t make an omlette without breaking some eggs..’ and so on.

Bullying leadership becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.  The ‘followers’ feel disempowered, less inclined to take initiative for they will probably be punished.  They will tend to wait for orders.  This reinforces in the mind of the ‘leader’ that they are no good, ‘numpties’ (good Scottish phrase!), need constant supervision.  So the leader continues his or her aggressive behaviour.

Of course, leadership requires tough decisions at times.  And effective leadership is courageous – but this does not mean that one can’t also show compassion and care. 

I love Peter Koestenbaum’s model of leadership (email me if you want more information on this) where he has as a polarity for Courage and Ethics.  As he defines them, ‘a courageous leader always claims the power to initiate, act, and risk, for courage means to act with sustained initiative.’  And AT THE SAME TIME, he argues that the effective leader is ethical.  ‘An ethical leader is always sensitive to people, for ethics means to be of service’

(Image from on of the Photos I took last summer at a visit to Rodin’s Monument to the Burghers of Calais in the Musee Rodin in Paris.)

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1 comment… add one

  • Doug Flett

    Ah, if Scotland could embrace the models of its pioneering leaders and learn old lessons once again. There is leadership debate in the nation. In the governmental realm the think-tank Reform Scotland reported, “..key to obtaining better public services in Scotland, was decentralising reform…decisions taken as close as possible to the people..” We in Queensferry are setting up a stakeholder group for that very reason.

    And business? Well the marketplace is always talking about leadership, because good leadership is good for business.

    The church has the biggest problem with leadership. Where a business of 100 people will be run by a Board of Directors with a variety of skills; HR, accountancy, sales, research, management, engineering, design, chairmanship and so on, the church has to get by with a leader trained in Greek and pastoral care with some ability in public speaking. They are one-man bands who are mostly responsible for the horrendous condition of the church today.

    Scotland indeed needs to re-learn good leadership. We are a lively, intelligent and creative nation suppressed by its leaders more than we are encouraged by them.

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