One morning I asked a group leader to follow up on an assignment with a particular person. After some hesitation, he assumed a self-defeatist and accusatory attitude. I was not too thrilled about his response, for I expected him to represent the team, make inquiries as suggested and not assume an accusatory attitude. I also expected him to allow another or others aid him in the leadership process. His actions were wanting; despite being a chosen leader among the group. Now, here was a man who was elected to represent the group; he welcomed his leadership role well, but after careful hindsight, the welcome was due to the prestige of the position, not due to its responsibilities or ownership.
Does this scenario remind you of anything? Does it remind me of any leader you know? I must confess, this scenario reminds me of the shallow, ill prepared, power hungry leaders there are in the world. It reminds me of the inadequacies of leadership and leaders. It begs a number of questions; Are leaders “born” or are they trained, equipped? Is it wrong to demand transformational leadership? Is it wrong to demand responsibility fulfillment? Where are leaders? Where are men and women who can lead, without fear or favor? I must confess again that it was rather disappointing to see the cowardly stand of the noted group leader
Now, there have been numerous debates about leadership, with various classification of leadership; e.g. toxic, transformation, servant, and transactional. All contain different characteristics. Transformational leadership, propagated by James MacGregor Burns, 1978, recognizes both the leader and followers; both have responsibilities, roles and ownership of leadership. Leadership is described as a process, in which both the followers and leader influence, motivate and support each other. In contrast, the transactional leadership seeks to influence followers through the use of rewards and penalties.
I prefer transformational leadership, for it places the ownership in the hands of both the followers and leader. It does not assume leadership is lineal; with concentration on the leader, but embraces the dual role of both the leader and followers.
Having known this, I reflected on my earlier experience with the group leader. I realized, that yes, he might be lacking certain skills, or might not be the best fit for the group. I also realize that he required to be strengthened to perform his leadership roles, without fear or poor attitude. The question, thus, remained, how can he be strengthened? The answer was not easy,for in reaching out to him, resulted in more accusatory attitude from him. Now, mind you, this is a person representing a group. I realized that at that point that leadership must be owned, embraced, and performed. It cannot rest on a mere title or position; it must be accountable. It must be understood based on sound principles. But it must never rest on ignorance and accusatory attitudes, for in doing so negates the very core of transformational leadership. The group leader in question failed on so many accounts, yet the sad part about it is that he justified his ill behavior and attitude. His interest was in the position, not in the responsibilities, roles and benefits of transformational leadership.