Do Leaders Really Matter?Indispensible. To be sure, Lincoln and Churchill have mattered, but does every leader matter?
Of course, every leader matters to someone. But here Mukunda is talking about leaders who matter on a larger scale—those that matter to all of us. What would have happened if someone else had filled the same role. “Leader impact can best be thought of as the marginal difference between what actually happened and what would have happened if the most likely alternative leader had come to power….Will he or she make significantly different choices than the other plausible candidates.”
It gets down to how we choose our leaders and how we advance people through an organization. This process, Mukunda calls the Leader Filtration Process (LFP). A given LFP will filter candidates through a process designed to find those who conform to a specific value system—a Modal or standard leader. Occasionally an Extreme candidate will slip through. Many organizations weed out potential Extremes. The military’s promotion system is an example of a tight filtration process. At the other extreme, entrepreneurship is a very loose process—you become an entrepreneur just by deciding to do it.
A leader that has bypassed an LFP is likely to be an Extreme. Charisma helps leaders bypass filtration. “Family connections, personal wealth, and celebrity, for example, all smooth the path to power without subjecting candidates to the risk of being Filtered out by the LFP.”
Modal leaders can be highly successful under normal conditions. They are good at maintaining the status quo. I would associate management with Modal leaders. Extremes, on the other hand, are all about innovation. “Extreme leaders will be much more likely to change the goals their organization or state is pursuing and to adopt means to achieve those goals that other leaders would not—that’s why they have such marked impact compared with other Modals.”
If you are stuck, an Extreme leader may be just what you need. But while Extremes deviate—and that may be a good thing—they are “far more likely than Modals to have dramatic successes and failures.”
“Filtration is supposed to prevent leaders with undesirable characteristics from gaining power.” This is quite understandable. However, “many of those undesirable traits aren’t purely negative—in the right situation, they can be a huge asset.”
What helps make an Extreme great is when they couple their decisions with humility. “The Extreme leader does what others would not do, even when others advise him or her against it. To make this sort of choice when the stakes are high takes enormous confidence. Sometimes, however, the Extreme’s advisers will be right. When that is true, the great Extreme leader will have the humility to defer to their judgment. It is this almost paradoxical combination of self-confidence and humility that marks the transcendentaly great leader.”
Mukunda’s Leader Filtration Theory has implications as to how and when we choose certain types of leaders to lead us. He recommends that if you are a Filtered leader that you bring a few Extremes into your inner circle.
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