Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Leadership Depends On The Situation

In some situations one person may emerge as the leader; in others he or she may not. Winston Churchill, for example, was a great leader in wartime, but not so good in peace. As we have seen, the truth is a little more complex than that.

Some qualities are situation-related, but others – such as enthusiasm, moral courage and stamina – are found in leaders in widely different situations.

To my mind, the main contribution of this situational approach is that it emphasises the importance of knowledge in working life; and knowledge is linked to authority. There are four forms of authority among people:
  • The authority of position and rank – ‘Do this because I am the boss!’
  • The authority of knowledge – ‘Authority flows to the one who knows.’
  • The authority of personality – in its extreme form, charisma.
  • Moral authority – personal authority to ask others to make sacrifices.
Nelson Mandela, for example, has dignity, integrity and charm. Because he endured years of imprisonment he has acquired the moral authority to ask his fellow countrymen and -women to accept difficulties and hardships on the long road to national unity and prosperity.
Why do sailors do what the captain orders when the ship is tossed to and fro in a storm? Because they sense that the captain has the knowledge of the sea and navigation, deepened by experience of many other storms, to know what to do.

Knowledge creates confidence in others.
For this reason your acquisition of technical and professional knowledge is actually part of your development as a leader. You are equipping yourself with one essential ingredient. To go back to Churchill for a moment, in 1940 he was the only cabinet minister with experience as a war minister in the First World War, quite apart from his own background as a professionally trained officer who, as a regimental commander, briefly served on the Western Front. Apart from his gifts of oratory and character, Churchill had a considerable amount of knowledge relevant to running a war – more so than his colleagues. And ‘In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.’

The same principle holds good for you. But don’t imagine that having the appropriate technical or professional knowledge in itself qualifies you for leadership. Again, it is necessary but not sufficient.

All the main strands of authority – position, knowledge and personality – are important. In order to get free and equal people to cooperate and produce great results, you need to rely upon the second and third forms of authority as well as the first. It is like a three-stranded rope. Don’t entrust all your weight to one strand only.

In the first phase of your career as a leader you will probably be working in a fairly well-defined field of work, and you will have acquired the necessary professional and technical knowledge.

But, within your field, situations are changing all the time. How flexible are you? Can you cope, for example, with both growth and retraction? The following checklist will help you to confirm both that you are in the right field and also that you are developing the flexibility to stay in charge in a variety of different situations – including some that cannot be foreseen.


About bench3 -

Haja Peer Mohamed H, Software Engineer by profession, Author, Founder and CEO of "bench3" you can connect with me on Twitter , Facebook and also onGoogle+

Subscribe to this Blog via Email :