Category Archives: Amateur Sociology

Leadership Scarcity: A Modern Epidemic

I read an article today about why good employees quit their jobs. It was a shitty hack job of something originally posted on LinkedIn, but it did spark a thought about leadership. Well, that and the following bit of vitriol from a Facebook comment:

“Side note: ALL bosses are assholes/bitches/dumbasses in any shape or form. Only difference is if they like you or not”

Hardly true. Then this:

“Well we live in a world where the intelligent and common sense thinking individuals are outmatch by the dumb and thick headed fence post and those post fence become bosses and they make other post fence become boss”

More true.

Now I don’t know the guy, so this is hardly a personal indictment, but that’s directly from the script read by righteously terrible and entitled employees. Maybe he has a legitimate ax to grind, I don’t know, but it did get my wheels turning. So in response I posted this:

“I would never paint an entire group of people with the same brush, but there is an epidemic of bad management. Some of that stems from the individual; everyone is accountable for themselves and their actions.

However it is too widespread to simply base it on that.

Leadership attributes are not what is most valued when choosing leaders. The cold hard fact of the matter is there are a disproportionate number of leaders needed and people capable of leading. Some have innate leadership traits and we call them natural leaders, but even then those traits are not nurtured, because they are not as valued as they should be. Some amount of skill can be developed in most people, but once again, this is not a priority.

The biggest problem is society’s collective mindset. Just look at the language. We don’t need managers, we need leaders.”

Naturally I did not stop pondering the issue just because I tossed my initial thoughts into the Facebook ether. Specifically I keep coming back to the concept of managers versus leaders, because language matters. Subtle differences in how someone is described can create a profound difference in how that person is perceived—to include how that person perceives himself.

A man who describes himself as a manager and a man who describes himself as a leader are two very different men.

A manager sounds like someone who simply keeps people doing their job just well enough to meet the lowest acceptable standard. Only just managing to keep everyone from fucking up too badly. Best case scenario: the employees and managers get along well enough to function. More commonly there is an antagonistic relationship between the two, and worst of all this has become an accepted and expected part of the workplace.

“A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting. A boss is interested in himself or herself, a leader is interested in the group.”

– Russell H. Ewing

The thoughts and mental images associated with the word ‘leader’ are very different. A leader is someone who is taking you somewhere. Someone who isn’t managing a group of quarreling individuals, but leading a team that is committed to a goal and to each other.

General George S. Patton, leadership embodied.

“We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.”

Unfortunately society currently values subservience over initiative. Obedience over audacity. Conformity over leadership.

Parents do not lead their children; they incubate them.

Teachers do not lead young minds to knowledge and critical thought. Less teaching than indoctrination.

This issue goes deeper than workplace satisfaction. Everyone is concerned with managing their lives rather than leading them. What happens when the average person has to be told what to do, how and when to do it—but never asks why it’s being done? When this person needs to be directed and supervised like a child? It is okay to be a follower; the world needs good followers, but no one should follow blindly.

So what am I going to do?

I am going to lead. Regardless of who is above, below, behind, or in front of me.