“Leaders we have, leadership we do not”


By Ian Sampson

We are getting lots of interest in Powerful Leadership in Action. Here are some insights that explain what lies behind our work with Leaders who want to move their organisations forward using this simple but effective leadership approach.

As some wise old timer once said: “Leaders we have; leadership we do not.” 

The world is full of people in positions called “leader“, yet few are leading effectively and sustainably.

Leadership occurs when someone enables others to move forward. A true leader, therefore, is one who exercises acts of leadership consistently and  often enough that followers  pay attention to them even when they are passive. Quite simply, every person is capable of leadership. In that moment they are a leader. When the moment passes they cease to be leaders until they exercise leadership again. That will occur when others pay attention to them.

So, what is the essence of leadership?

From the perspective of the leader the essence of leadership is: enabling one or a group to move forward. From the perspective of the followers it is: the action of a person or a group paying attention to someone.

Effective leadership occurs when the person or group move forward as a result of paying attention to the leader.

Sustainable leadership occurs when random or intuitive leadership acts that move the process forward are combined with an ability to engagingly articulate actions that reach to the goal.

Effective and sustainable leadership occurs when the individual or group continue to move forward as a result of paying attention to the leader and continuing to respond to the leader’s enablement.

At this point a leader is created.

Effective and sustainable leadership occurs when others are enabled; it never occurs when people are subject to the leader’s power that merely arises from position or status.

Effective and sustainable leadership acts to bring wisdom to a situation. This is accomplished by enriching the thinking processes beyond those that were present when the issue/ challenge/possibility /problem arose. Don’t forget as Albert Einstein said…

“No problem was ever solved with the same thinking that created it,”

Something else we have observed is….

Leadership is divorced from status. It is married to presence.

Leadership presence arises as leaders’ concern for the future is replaced by anticipation.  The thrill of leadership occurs at the moment when anticipation begins to replace concern. This is the point where followers pay attention. Followers then make the choice to be engaged with the leader or not. At that moment of choice, the followers begin to anticipate what lies ahead. Leadership action arises as anticipation of the future transforms into commitment to the future.
Effective but sporadic leadership actions arise when a leader see a possibility for action and voices it. Often the proposal will come from a combination of desire to move forward, an insight from a skill or experience or just a bright idea. In that moment a group of influences will be brought together and made sensible to her and then shared.

Effective and sustained leadership occurs when leaders use a learned or intuitive approach to interpret a situation and its context. Success depends on the leader’s ability to repeatedly exercise good intuition and/or to learn an approach such as Powerful Leadership in Action.

Having introduced wisdom to the situation in the moment of sharing an interpretation of a situation and its context, good leaders ensure continuous sharing through disclosure and deepening of knowledge of:

  • the current situation,
  • the information requirements and
  • the quality of the relationships.

Then, through an exploration of…

  • what is possible,
  • the principles that will guide action,
  • full exposure of issues and tensions and
  • appreciation of context and structure,

…. a time will quickly come when actions/ work/ the way forward/ the next steps will flow.

Well designed approaches make sure that next steps are tested against the commitment and will of followers to be accountable for success, that they address all the tensions and issues or at least point to their resolution and that they demonstrably contribute to the intention.

The Powerful Leadership in Action approach works from this basic understanding. It is easy to use in solving complex issues, when well facilitated. It is readily transferable as a skill for leaders to use in developing effective and sustainable leadership in their organisations.

Drop us a line here if you would like to have a coffee and chat about your leadership.

About the author:  Ian Sampson (B.Comm., LLB., FAICD, FAIM)  is a Cause & Effective Associate. He is a Strategic Advisor to Boards, an Executive Coach and a Facilitator of our Powerful Leadership in Action Program. He can be contacted here.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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