Friday, April 09, 2010

Eternal Leader (of children and leadership)

Leadership. What a deep word. A leader is usually the person in charge of leading some others towards a specific goal. We all seem to get the basics and it just seems very clear but there seems to be lots of twists and significant details hidden inside the semantics of this simple word.

What is the relationship between management and leadership? Is a teacher a leader? How about a the captain of a ship as the leader? Is the lead programmer really a leader?

At first glance leadership and management might seem the same and all of the above examples be types of leaders but can this be true?

Doing some historical analysis on this important meaning gives us a sense that the definitions of a leader are isolated in a shell which is quite tough to penetrate and perceive and ignoring the details might lead us to believing that any boss or authority figure is simply a leader. How unfair to the true leaders in time.

I have always been really curious about this word and thinking about it felt valuable since the whole idea of some one who can lead others and take them to a place they wish seems really significant and makes the position highly critical and as beautiful as the positive outcomes are, the negative results are scary and have the potential of leading people to failure is a hell of a responsibility. This has been the source of all my excitements for teaching, believing that a teacher needs to be a leader and the leaders role can have huge outcomes in a wide range. A belief that generate euphoric as well as worrying emotions.

A new experience in my life has been an inspiration for delving into the subject and reaching new insights. The experience of becoming a parent.

Being a parent, you are the automatic leader of the child (at least while he/she is a child) and you will try to do all you can to guide the child in the path towards the many short term and long term goals which you believe make the path. One issue is always related to the goals themselves and what goals are right and which are wrong, I am not going to work on this aspect at the moment and my focus is on the other part which is "leading towards the set goals", assuming all parties involved have accepted that as a goal.

Now lets analyze one of the scenarios in this leadership model: The child, still being an infant, crawls towards the electricity socket with a device attached and tries to experiment a little with the stuff over there, what will the leader do? Put the child back probably since that is rather something dangerous. The child repeats, the parent repeats. The next day, the same, next week, same thing... this heroic act of the parent to save the life of the child might repeat for hundreds of times before the neural system of the child learns that something might be really dangerous with this experiment.

The above scenario is just one of the many daily struggles of a parent as a leader, of course the word patience might try to prove itself here as the necessary trait of a leader but as important as patience is for leadership, there is another major characteristic here which is fundamental and that is the bond. The bond between the leader and leading. Can the parent one day say, "hey, you don't get it.. the hell with it ... go ahead and see what happens!". Probably no. The parent feels that he has to remain the leader and he can not run away from the responsibility in the hopes of letting evolution and nature itself do the leadership and training. It is a case for conflict when the leader knows the correct thing to do and the leading person disagrees for any reason. The leader has two options now, try to make the leading do what is right, this can be done by any kind of creative technique (which needs a lot of energy) or he can just say, OK, you don't get it, I am not your leader anymore, I will seek someone who will do it and replace that person with you.

How about your boss? Lets say you have to turn in the report, you don't. He will try to explain to you some important aspects of the report, if he is really nice. You do not hand it to him. He gets a bit mad and warns you, you still won't do it and you end up looking for a job, he delegates the responsibility of leading you to the society and the society might yet transfer this role to other social systems up in the hierarchy and you might end up with mother nature herself after some time. The bond between the boss as the leader and you as leading can easily be broken by the boss (leader?) by the conventional corporate laws.

This is a missing feature for the parental relationship. So when you feel that just giving up is not an option, when "The hell with it!" is not part of your literature, when you and those following you are stuck together with all the adhesives in the world, that is when the leader in you comes out, that is the absolutely necessary trait for a leader. This leader will now use all the forces in the world and all the magic hidden from the world to make the followers succeed. Delegation of responsibility is just not an option.

It seems like a big trap which exists very close to the leaders is "Giving In" and having this option is exactly falling in the trap. A trap which differentiates the leaders from the managers.

A teacher can work hard to educate the students but one day he might think, "... there is nothing more I can do ... they will fail and then they will know .... ", and this is how the devil himself will take away the leadership crown from this hard working teacher which was hunted down by the arrow of desperation. I have to admit that I was hit by this arrow quite a few times during my teaching experiences.

In the case of the lead programmer, if this person has some human resource authorities or office politics to be able to fire those working under him, then the trap of giving in and just hoping to replace the programmers if they don't perform well is all he needs to be reduced to a programmer manager from the Heavenly role of Lead Programmer.

It is a matter of a mental attitude and mental belief, however odd it might seem to the modern culture of efficiency and work habits, a true leader needs to be built on the foundation of that belief. A leader might not be cost effective for a company in the short run but cost effective managers will never really be leaders either.

The leaders have been cursed to remain the leaders of those they lead for EVER and this curse is what shapes their daily courageous journey of truth and makes them loved by their followers. Only those who have been under this curse will ever see the word "Leader" next to their names when they are reviewed in history ...

A leader is always a leader, if not he never was ....

Beware of the trap!


adoosh said...

Shiiiit...that's one helluv an insight man!

I've got 2 for you in 2 different areas:
- A leader is a the person (while doing most of the work) leads himself and a group of 11 men to 2 3peats at the highest athletic competition.
- A leader is a person who almost single handedly puts his country and fellow countrymen to FUBAR for generations to come...

How's that for a leader, huh?

Amir H. Fassihi said...

You better get prepared for some real leadership roles Adoosh ;)...

Yeah number one is a great one, he even used the mediocre guys such as Jud, Wellington and made the best out of them, he could have easily said, coach, these guys suck, lets wait for the next season so they get traded ....

That leader is definitely not a leader since the only thing not important for that guy is the people that are "being lead". He even prepares the situation and everything needed for those interested in thinking to leave the arena!

Some notes to my future said...

I think a true teacher is never a leader. He doesn’t care (or try not to care) about his student’s next step and he just shows right and wrong. But next step of a follower is crucial to a leader. A leader and his followers’ goals are mixed together. Ones success or mistake will affect on the others.
And a manager is one who works with lot of data along his employee but data is not always necessary for a leader. ;)
By the way, it’s very interesting that your son may one day read your blogs. I always wonder to know my father’s thought when I was a child.

Ashkan Saeedi said...

unfortunately when we hear the word "leader", that single handed person will come to our minds but wait ...
1 a leader needs to have mixed goals with followers or somehow being interested in them.
2 a leader needs to be the right person for being a leader. (unfortunately many parents are not the right persons for leading their children). i am sure such a great guy like Amir is.

so a stupid guy that his goals have nothing to do with us can not be our leader and it's just nasty po...tics ...
amir's post was about real leaders or leading positions that we have to/love to be in them.


good luck and have fun leading your child to next great thinker :)
i think the best leaders are those who first leaded their mind to a well situation and then try to lead others to something that they all think is good. our minds can be good leaders but for many people something from outside is needed but we are alone in dark in these days.
i think even God himself lead us with all events and happenings in our life but we should think and care much to see. he speaks to us inside our friends and ...