Management Articles


Unleash The Leaders In Your Midst

By: Brian Ward

Brian Ward is a principal in Affinity Consulting. He helps leaders, teams and individuals acquire new knowledge and wisdom through their consulting and educational work. He can be reached at t

"Somehow I can't believe that there are any heights that can't be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come through. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four Cs. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably"
    - Walt Disney
Not every manager becomes a leader, and not every person who makes the decision to be a leader needs to become a manager. This statement confuses many people in management positions, but makes perfect sense to every leader I know. If you feel confused by this, then perhaps you need to explore and understand the difference between leading and managing…

Leadership is a decision, not a position

Leaders provide an inspiring focus that attracts followers. I call this the attraction principle. Think of Gandhi, Kennedy, Mandela, as examples of leaders who attracted a great following. The same can be observed in the business world. Business leaders such as Disney, Walton, and Welch all knew what it was they wanted to create. They had big ideas whose time had come. When they attracted followers, they did so because they offered meaning and hope. And they believed in what they were attempting to achieve, implicitly and unquestionably.

Do you want to become a leader?

You may already be a manager, but being appointed into a management position will not qualify you as a leader. Having a big idea and attracting followers to it most certainly will. So if you want to be a leader, start by asking yourself what it is you want to create. Ask yourself 'what is it I would want to ACHIEVE if I knew, if I absolutely knew, that I could not fail?" (Just making budget each quarter does not qualify.)

For example, Sam Walton in the early days of WalMart knew that he wanted to create an organization that would be the #1 discounter in small town America. Jack Welch set his sights firmly on GE being the #1 or #2 in each business sector that they operated in. Walt Disney just wanted to 'make people happy'.

Three characteristics in particular are evident with these stated aims. They are:
  • Simple
  • Challenging
  • A meaningful end result
These leaders avoided being too precise, because they wanted to give themselves, and their followers, lots of room for innovation and creativity, lots of 'elbow room'. Yet their focus was clear. They demonstrated that you could have a clear focus without being too specific or directive.

They also knew that followers needed to be leaders also, because each of them would need to attract other followers, in fact making the whole thing 'viral'.

Anyone can be a leader

As you examine these seven points, you will probably notice that you don't have to be in a management position to pursue them.

A case in point is Rosa Parks. In December 1955, Rosa, a 43 year old seamstress found her passion, her focus. Rosa, an African-American, lived and worked in Montgomery, Alabama. Segregation between whites and African-Americans was enshrined in law back then. One particular city ordinance related to the public transport system. It stated that white people had the right to sit in the front of the bus, black people in the rear. If a white person boarded the bus and no seats were available, a black person had to give up their seat. Rosa decided she had had enough of this type of unfair treatment. She refused to give up her seat, and was arrested for her 'crime'. It made headline news, and brought to the forefront a certain Baptist Minister…Dr. Martin Luther King. The rest as they say is history. Rosa still works for fairness and equality and a better life for African-Americans, especially young people. Rosa never lost her focus, her passion.

What's your passion?

So what is your passion? If you are a manager, consider the possibilities if each and every member of your team were to become a leader in their own right…if you helped them find their passion, their focus? What if you had a team of leaders, who all had complementary visions of what they wanted to create? Imagine the possibilities!

When we work with clients, we emphasize this by saying 'leadership is a decision, not a position' - anyone can become a leader, and in our workshops it is so encouraging seeing people emerge as passionate, focused leaders.

Lead people, manage things

Some managers we come across fear the 'consequences' of unleashing leaders in their midst, mostly because they have not discovered their own passion, their own focus. They feel threatened and insecure, and they try to hide it by acting tough. They try to manage people, just like they manage things. They take the axiom 'people are our greatest asset' literally and treat people like they treat objects. When they meet with resistance, these managers then reach out to techniques and fads. The result is pitiful and sad…low morale, poor alignment, and lackluster performance. Leaders on the other hand know that the relationship they have with people is their greatest asset.

Are you ready to make the decision? Now you can of course, if you want to take the safe, expedient route, decide to be a manager. The choice is yours. Being a manager (and not a leader), has its consequences too, as author Katherine Hathaway put it…

"If you let your fear of consequences prevent you from following your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient and thin"

Becoming a leader, like Walt Disney said, takes curiosity, courage, constancy and above all confidence. Are you ready to make the decision to be a leader, and to unleash the leaders in your midst? Do you have the confidence in yourself?

Seven points to ponder

So here are seven points to ponder as you consider becoming a leader who attracts an army of followers:
  1. Know your authentic self and what it is that you want to create.

  2. Make it meaningful and challenging. Above all be passionate about it.

  3. State it in simple terms.

  4. State it as a measurable (or at least observable) outcome.

  5. Ask yourself 'will this get me up in the morning?'

  6. Ask yourself 'will this sometimes keep me awake at night?'

  7. Announce it to the world and believe in it implicitly and unquestionably.

These seven points will start you on your leadership journey, or help you restart it if you are stuck. Remember, believing in yourself and your focus, implicitly and unquestionably, is the first step if you are to succeed as a leader, assuming of course that you have made the decision to be one.

© Copyright 2003 Affinity Consulting. All rights reserved.

Other Articles by Brian Ward

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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