As an active participant in leadership discussions both on blogs and group discussions, I come across a common confusion in definitions. I saw it again in the comments to a great post by Jen Kuhn this week at The Experience Factor. I also witnessed it in the series and discussion David Burkus did at The Leader Lab on the Maxwell Fallacy.
Good vs. Bad Leadership
Let’s agree today that good leadership is not the same as effective leadership. Let’s agree that the word good is an evaluation of the end result rather than the leader’s actions. Did it achieve good purposes? Did it create value? (By value I mean benefit in excess of cost.) Did the benefit to all parties exceed the cost to all parties? Let’s agree that good leadership is that authority or influence that creates a good outcome. If the outcome is not generally good, it would be bad leadership. Using this model, “bad” becomes a big word. Any leadership that doesn’t create positive outcomes for the contributors and stakeholders can’t be good. As Jen stated in her comments, what Hitler did can’t be good. It can however be effective.
An Effective leader is someone who manages to get people to do what they want. It could be defined as one who exerts influence to get others to achieve the leader’s objectives regardless of the quality of the outcome. It will be effective if people allow themselves to be influenced. The outcomes can be good or bad.
Just Plain Ugly
In keeping with the movie, ineffective leadership is just plain Ugly. We won’t even try to clean it up. If you have to stoop to manipulating or threatening or bullying, that’s ugly leadership.
It seems from my connecting with people all over the world through Twitter and the Lead Change Group on LinkedIn, as well as the interest that has been shown in starting local leadership groups like Authentic Leadership Cincinnati or Lead Change Tulsa, that a growing number of people agree that our world needs an infusion of good leadership: effective leadership that brings about net-positive outcomes. The only way to do that is to contribute more than you consume. Let the revolution continue in your life and sphere of influence today!