For no light matter is at stake; the question concerns the very manner in which human life is to be lived.
Want to cultivate leadership?
Then walk like a Samurai and talk like a sage.
"We cannot wait for great visions from great people, for they are in short supply - it is up to us to light our own small fires in the darkness."
Leadership as qualities which gives rise to followership
Co-creating meaning since 2001
Leadership is an emergent quality; followership is the primary and necessary quality - and the existence of leadership derives from and depends upon it. Potential followers must exist before leaders can emerge.
The moment an idea has meaning for you - that is, it suddenly 'makes sense' to you - it becomes yours, a part of what you are
"Surround yourself with the highest caliber people. Remember that first rate people hire first rate people - and second rate people hire third rate people"
Richard M White Jr
"If you hire only people you understand the company will never get better than you are. Always remember that you often find outstanding people among those you don't particularly like"
Soichiro Honda - founder of Honda Motor Company
"Who attends to greater things becomes a greater person, and who attends to smaller things becomes a smaller person"
Mencius (Chinese philosopher 371-298 BCE)
"Perhaps the most central characteristic of authentic leadership is relinquishing the impulse to dominate others"
"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality"
"Integrity is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership"
"When the heroes go off the stage, the clowns come on"
Human leadership behaviours cannot be understood without reference to their origins and evolution. Archetypal human leadership is the leadership of hunter-gatherer groups.
The leader-follower relationship
Most writers on leaders and leadership treat the terms as if they describe qualities existing in isolation. But leaders and leadership represent one side of a more fundamental condition and it is more appropriate to consider them as aspects of the leader-follower relationship.
Why leadership happens
No individual can survive alone in the desert
Ghazi bin Muhammad
1. Leader-follower behaviours are found in a wide range of social animals, including primates, canines, cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and elephants2. In these animals individual survival depends upon the group and individuals cannot survive to maturity alone
3. Groups exist through collaboration, experience, strong interactions and mutual dependence
4. Certain behaviours promote this and benefit the group and it is these behaviours that lead the group
7. The sight of a leader exercising a leadership behaviour is an Emotionally Competent Stimulus
8. The presence of a recognised and trusted leader is an Emotionally Competent Stimulus
9. Leadership is principally a visual phenomenon, therefore LEADERS NEED TO BE VISIBLE
Some leadership behaviours are innate – some are learned by mimesis. In all social animals these behaviours are transmitted and acquired by both heredity and culture.
Leadership and neuronal resonance The display of leader-follower behaviours will, through the mediation of mirror neurons, produce neuronal, cognitive and behavioural resonances in both parties. Thus a leader-like behaviour from one individual will be percieved, intepreted and acted upon by another.
Primate leaders must attend to all in the group, including infants, successfully responding to challenges from the outside environment and social disruptions within the group. If a group permits an antisocial incompetent to lead it, it may not survive the consequences of its misjudgement.
Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox
Some important consequences are:
Leadership skills improve with maturity and experience.
The old "debate" on whether leaders are born or made becomes as meaningless as a chicken and egg argument (evolution gave rise to eggs long before chickens).
It is easier to be led - or deceived - with your eyes open. If you want to know if someone is telling the truth, close your eyes and listen.
"The greatest virtue in a prince is to know his subjects"
1. Observation of leadership behaviours produces a complementary response in follower’s brains
2. The response is initially emotional
3. Rationalisation and narrative are secondary phenomena
4. Followers decisions to act are often largely unconscious, in that the earlier parts of the process are not controlled or accessed by consciousness.
Leadership in hunter-gatherers
This may be considered as the archetypal or "natural" human leadership behaviour, emerging from 3 million years of evolution on the plains of Africa - around 120,000 generations of accumulating change.
1. Hunter-gatherer groups have no formal leadership structure
2. Issues affecting the welfare of the group are discussed and decisions made by a consensus
3. Group welfare and need brings leadership behaviours from individuals with experience and expertise e.g. hunting, crafting, gathering, finding water, etc.
4. No individual holds a position of general influence or leadership over the whole group
5. Individuals are relatively free to do as they please within the constraints of need and custom
6. If disagreement arises over the most appropriate response to an issue or challenge the group may fragment and go separate ways
7. Such communities have no government, except that imposed upon them by outsiders.
The development of cultures has created organizations and heirarchies which are, for the most part, antithetical to these kinds of behaviour.
Organizations with "flat" heirarchies - such as hi-tech, innovative and creative industries - more effectively reflect human nature in this way, with a consequent positive impact on job satisfaction, welfare, organizational effectiveness and performance.
To explore how our hunter-gatherer brains influence and shape leader-follower relationships in your organization or team - please get in touch:
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If an idea makes sense to you - make it yours.