Monday, August 11, 2008


Even though I'm a professional military officer (i.e. leader), capital-L Leadership is a topic I am DEEPLY disinterested in. So much of what is written about Leadership is pure hooey and a big waste of time. Far better (if you must study something Leadership-related) to study biographies of great leaders than the hypothetical, analytical theories of people who have never actually done any leading... or the war stories of leaders who may or may not really understand why what they did turned out the way it did. Better still, find a flesh and blood mentor, and understand that leadership is a craft to be honed, not simply an academic discipline to be analyzed.

The highly-esteemed John Maxwell is my least favorite of the ubiquitous modern Leadership Experts. His definition of leadership ("influence - nothing more, nothing less") raises my hackles every time I hear it. According to Mr. Maxwell, Leadership is apparently just a fancy word for "getting your own way" (i.e. influencing people).

This evening, I came across a beautiful quote in G.K. Chesterton's novel The Flying Inn, which blows a mile-wide hole in Mr. Maxwell's self-centered control/influence oriented perspective. Captain Dalroy (one of the main characters) says to Mr. Hugby, the baddie and an aspiring Leader: "You are not respected. You are obeyed."

Ah, that's the key, isn't it? John Maxwell, with all his influence, might very well get his own way and be obeyed. He probably is pretty good at compelling people to comply with his wishes and teaching people how to wield influence.

But I don't call that leadership.

1 comment:

Gabe said...

And a hearty AMEN to that. I find it very off-putting when I'm assigned under clinical leaders. You know, the type that leads according to some sytematic approach that he was trained or taught in some leadership school. The kind that lacks any real emotion or heart and simply "leads" with intelectual "realism". I totally disrespect those kind of leaders and find it very hard to resist only doing the bare minimum.