Leadership literature stresses the importance of having a vision, a clear sense of where the leader is headed. This vision takes the form of a mission, a destination that is pursued with energy and passion. We are “here” and are going “there.” Of course, “there” is a good place to be, better than “here.”
Leadership, then, implies movement, a shift in the situation or circumstances. Leadership success is reaching the destination, achieving the mission, getting the job done.
It is postulated that this paradigm is largely a product of historical perspective. As some of these experts who have been designated as great leaders, they seem to mostly be military types, especially if they lived a very long time ago.
According to Dan Smith of KeynoteSpeakers.info, corporate executives and sports figures have joined the ranks of the leadership elite but go back more than fifty years or so and the leadership super stars were mostly military stars, who also were often Heads of State.
It is interesting to consider alternative paradigms to explain the phenomenon of leadership and leaders. At a minimum, the current paradigm is directional and future oriented. Leadership moves from “here,” the present undesired condition, to “there,” the desired future condition.
If you have ever seen a prominent leadership speaker give a presentation or speech, “You will quickly find that the leader has the knowledge, skills, and ability to “cause” the movement, and the change in conditions” says John Rogan of MotivationalSpeakerz.com.
The current paradigm is action and change oriented. Action leads to change and that change is attributable, in part, to the leader. What if leadership were alternatively understood as a protective phenomenon?Instead of leading people anywhere, leaders simply help people avoids crewing up, they prevent failure.
First, the would-be leader affiliates with people, who are interested in benefits and opportunities similar to those of interest to the would be leader. Let’s call this the what’s-in-it-for-me” (WIIFM) principle. It may be more money, freedom, winning the Super Bowl, safer streets, greener grass, happy children, or whatever fits the WIIFM principle fora group of people. Usually, it is a cluster of things that collectively represent a valued WIIFM.
The group has its WIIFM and there is both agreement and commitment. The people in the group more or less agree that not having what they want is bad and having it is good. They know who will benefit (They will) and how they will benefit (They will have what they want.) Their WIIFM is usually what they want for themselves but certainly can be something they want for someone else. “I will like it if you are happy, get what you want, achieve your goal. Your getting your WIIFM is my WIIFM.”
Leadership starts with a shared or perhaps complementary WIIFM. Either way, the WIIFM principle is operational in the group.
Next, leadership depends on the Collective Principle. There is a group or collective WIIFM wherein the focus is at the group or collective level. This collective WIIFM is primary and the individual WIIFM of group members is secondary. The primary status of the group WIIFM is what we are calling the collective Principle.
If the WIIFM and Collective principles are operational in the group, leadership turns on the Pooling Principle to keep people motivated and inspired through this process. According to Motivation Ping, group members pool or converge their talents, skills, abilities, resources, and whatever else they can bring to the task of actualizing the collective WIIFM. To maximize the shared benefit of the Pooling Principle, one or more group members are usually designated to manage the In/Out Principle. If an individual adds to the Pooling Principle, he/she is In and if not, he/she is Out. New group members are recruited and ineffective group members are eliminated, to the end of maximizing the Pooling Principle.
Here comes the leader. He/she is not necessarily someone with more to add to the Pooling Principle than anyone else. Rather, the leader has special skills and abilities that enable him/her to recognize whatever jeopardizes the WIIFM Principle. Success is a product of group action.The group will be however successful it can be, assuming it does not screw up or fail. That is the job of the leader and as we all know, some people are very good at protecting the rest of us from our own inattention or incompetence.
Is this a good alternative leadership paradigm? It may or may not be.The cool thing is that it shows that an alternative paradigm is possible. If one is possible, more are likely at hand.