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October 2020 – Question of the Month

October 20, 2020 - By Wendy Lambourne, Director, MA Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Registered Psychologist with SA Medical & Dental Council

Question of the Month: Is Legitimate Leadership crafted purely with the business world in mind or does it hold that effective leadership is the same no matter the environment? For example, in the military, could it not be argued that the control approach is more appropriate given the exigencies?

Answer: The framework is relevant in all contexts and in all power relationships: parenting, teaching, sports coaching, government and the military. In the military there are officers that the troops will lay down their lives for and those for whom they will follow orders to the letter. In this regard an excellent book is Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. Our framework was for instance introduced to senior officers in the Pakistani army many years ago.

This is not about replacing an autocratic/directive style with a democratic one. Both are not only possible but appropriate in a legitimate relationship of power. When the leader is being commanding, his command will be accepted as long as what he is doing is in his people’s best interest. In other words, control is absolutely appropriate as long as it is subordinate to the intention to empower. Holding a child’s hand (an autocratic imposition of control) is appropriate if the child is not yet ready to walk independently. Insisting on holding the child’s hand into perpetuity is not appropriate and the child will never learn to walk!

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