Leadership 'as-a-Service'?

The information technology world has figured out that sometimes it is easier and cheaper to obtain services they need through vendors providing those services over cloud computing, than it is hiring someone to do the work. This is known by the term “as-a-Service.”

The Basics of “as-a-Service”

Defining characteristics of “as-a-Service” include:

  • Being provided by a vendor rather than in-house
  • Cloud-computing technology eliminates or reduces the need for on-site equipment and software

For more background about the origins of the term, see TechTarget's explanation of “XaaS – anything-as-a-service.”

Within cloud computing, there are three types of aaS: Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service. If you’re like me (a layperson), it helps to put this in easily-understood terms. With a nod to David Ng and his “pizza-as-a-service” example, SaaS is the equivalent of having a prepared pizza delivered to you; PaaS equates to having all the ingredients you need available and prepped, leaving you just to put it together and bake it. IaaS, lastly, would be like buying all the ingredients you want, but needing access to a kitchen to bake everything.

Point being: at all levels of traditional “aaS,” someone else provides a certain proportion of the supplies/equipment/labor.

How “as-a-Service” is losing its focus

As I have read about the manufacturing industry, the internet of things, and other technology, I keep running across “aaS” variations, such as:

All of those are closely enough aligned with cloud computing that I can wrap my head around them.

But then there is “empathy-as-a-Service.” It was the EaaS that got me wondering where this would all end. And a conversation with a friend ended with me jokingly saying, “Ha! Before we know it, there will be “Leadership-as-a-Service.”

Can Leadership be Offered “as a Service”?

I could see a consultancy or other vendor saying, “Let’s call our leadership consulting product Leadership-as-a-Service.”

Maybe they would mean:

  • A leader to step in when an organization can’t see its fatal flaws.  This could be a time that an external leader joins an organization for a finite period, to assess cultural weaknesses (and strengths) and to provide objectivity when doing so is a lost cause for the existing team.
  • An interim leader following the departure of a leader of long tenure during the search process.  I’m thinking of a church, for example, whose priest has moved on to a different assignment. The business of the church must go on, and an interim leader can keep the organization in line with its mission, continue being pastoral to the congregation, keep administrative ducks in a holy row.
  • A supplemental leader when demand outstrips existing resources. A business can try to forecast demand but unexpected occasions arise. I worked for the Florida AIDS Hotline at the time a celebrity was diagnosed with AIDS, back in the mid-1980s when it was a shock to society and questions were rampant about how the syndrome was transmitted. We had to ramp up a robust, triple-the-size of the existing team, response group on little notice to meet the demand for more counseling and information.
But leadership isn’t that complicated

Leadership isn’t a software function that can be easily managed from afar. It can’t be done remotely.

When you look at how the “as-a-Service” word itself is constructed, and we’ll use Leadership as a Service as a hypothetical, only two words are upper case. The others are lower case (“as” and “a”).

When it comes to leadership, what matters at all are “Leadership” and that the person is prepared to “Serve.” The “as” and the “a” just won’t cut it. Organizations with leadership voids need not mess around with sophisticated constructs like “as-a-Service.”

They just need leaders. Period.

What do you think?