The original research into management-employee relationships, which led to the development of the Legitimate Leadership Model, found that trust in the management of any enterprise was granted or withheld on the basis of employee perceptions of leadership’s genuine concern for their welfare. Leaders are seen to be worthy of support, or not, on this basis only.
Extrapolation of the research findings led to the conclusion that leaders stand or fall on the basis of a single criterion: their INTENT or motive. Those in positions of authority, in essence, succeed to the degree to which they are there to “give” to their people as opposed to “get” something out of them.
Further to this, the intent of any leader is wholly within his/her control. It is each individual – no one else – who determines the motive(s) which sit behind and drive their actions. Further to this, intent bears no relationship to intellect, qualifications, interpersonal skill, managerial style or even personality.
Intent is not an ability issue but rather a matter of the will and, as such, intent is a choice. It follows logically, therefore, that anyone in a leadership role who chooses to give to his/her people, to care for and grow them, can lead.
From experience, most managers who are taken through the above logic feel liberated. They are released from the notion that only those blessed with a charismatic personality, superior intellect, oratory skill and an inclusive management style can lead. As a result managers, from diverse organisations across the world, have gone on to be exemplary Legitimate Leadership leaders. They have changed, their people have changed and the results have followed.
And yet there are still people in positions of authority who absolutely understand intent, and who subscribe to the Legitimate Leadership criteria, but still don’t succeed in leadership roles. Why this is so is a function of the leader him/herself, not of the context in which they lead. Leaders who fall short against the Legitimate Leadership criteria do so because of personal attributes which, in the context of leading others, constitute a fatal flaw.
The following six attributes can, if they are distinguishing features of a leader, seriously undermine that leader’s capacity to lead in line with the Legitimate Leadership criteria.
We have all come across people in leadership roles who evince one or more of the above characteristics. There are propellorheads /geeks, popularists, control freaks, victims, egoists and results-at-all-costs people in every organisational hierarchy. There is a widespread view, moreover, that there are more of these kinds of people in the upper ranks of management than lower down in organisations. Put another way, there is a belief that there is an inverse relationship between “being here to give” and a person’s position in a hierarchy.
I am not convinced that this is true. I believe there are “givers” and “takers” at every level in an organisation. Moreover we should not confuse the ability to ascend an organisational hierarchy with leadership leaders. The latter bring out the best in the people in their charge. They generate unprecedented levels of trust, willingness and loyalty. The former do not.
People in authority with one or more of the six attributes above have people working for them who do their bidding and deliver the results, short term. But they don’t have people who do the extraordinary. Their people are continuously susceptible to a better offer. When the business hits a rocky patch – and what business does not? – they don’t pick up the oars and row through the stormy seas. They jump ship.
Intent is a matter of choice for anyone in command. A commitment to “give” to one’s people as opposed to “get” from them, to make their care and growth a priority or not, is a choice that anyone in a leadership role has to make. That choice has inevitable consequences.