My husband came home from work last night and shared a familiar story. After seven years in government work he has had seven bosses – some good, some bad. This night’s episode had him telling the “Tale of the Atrocious Supervisor,” wherein the Peter Principle had found its civil servant spokesperson.
If we’re lucky, we’ve all had at least one boss whose keen leadership has propelled us to greater things. Unfortunately, we have all certainly had that boss whose shortcomings, whether in communication skills or ability to motivate a team, have left us wanting. But following a good leader is an intuitive act. Almost without you knowing it, a good leader inspires to a cause and motivates to action. Before long, those following take ownership of a common vision and are able to enlist others in the purpose as well. It is true in business, government, and education. It is true in family life, a non-profit organization, or the arts. Leaders with these skills and strength of character are the ones who are getting things done.
On the other hand, we have all experienced the aggravation of being forced to follow a person whose greatest impulse for leadership is their expertise in a particular field. While technical knowledge is certainly necessary for success, such a leader is not a leader at all, but a person with specialized know-how who happens to hold authority over others. Those following such a person are invariably frustrated at best. At worst they are stuck in a directionless and ineffective organization. A leader like this may seem to have all that is needed to achieve a task, but without the ability to move people, that leader will flounder, and so will those following.
Conventional thinking tries to sell an MBA as a magical passport to climb the career ladder en route to a bigger salary. While an MBA gives technical knowledge of current business practices and theory, it cannot teach leadership. And with our current economic crisis, its narrow focus is insufficient. A leadership degree offers training in those areas that will make a difference for success in today’s climate: strategies for problem solving, direction in how to conceptualize goals and communicate them effectively, character building exercises to promote integrity and courage. A leadership degree has a wide appeal; not limited to business only, but paving the way for success in any field.
I can always tell when my husband has a good supervisor. The content of dinner time conversation changes from complaints about his boss to war stories about the work he and his team are accomplishing. Even without addressing the topic directly, he is telling me that quality leadership gets work done. At our dinner table, this appears to be the litmus test for what good leadership looks like: how seamlessly work is accomplished.
This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.