Blogs » J.Q. Tomanek of Victoria » First in line...


Leadership starts at the home and school. One of the first leadership principles that many schools use is "Follow the leader." The kids get in line, follow the person in front of them, and hopefully get where they are supposed to go. When I taught, as my children are learning now, and what I remember growing up, holding the leader of the line was a place of honor. In general, the teacher finds the child who is most behaved to lead the line. It is not a difficult task so the skill level is quite low. With regard to this method of choosing the child most behaved, the teacher is in a sense shaping young minds on leadership principles. As the other students quickly learn, the leader is the one that behaves well. Unfortunately, this principle becomes lost during high school (for the most part) where some studies would indicate most people form their leadership practices. I think it is common sense to see the need to continue the development of leaders past this stage as many organizations have learned.

Yesterday's topic of finding a leadership definition led to interesting comments by some of the local commentators. The topic of finding a definition of leadership was shaped around the discussion "Was Hitler a leader?"

@rollinstone wrote that Hitler was a leader, although an evil one and his rise came via the tumultuous times.

@Rebecca mentioned that a leader doesn't have an "us vs. them" mentality, is also able to follow, and has the ability to inspire, empower, and delegate.

@mike5011ad, a person serving our country in the Army (thank you for your service), explained that leadership, as quoted in the Army field manual on military leadership (FM 6-22) is "the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization."

Firstly, thank you for your thoughts and comments. I appreciate your time and readership.

Here are some of my thoughts. I typically take a little divergent path from the contemporary definition of leadership. As @mike5011ad posted, the Army definition, at least taken literally, can make Hitler to be a leader. As he mentioned, it rests on the translation of "improving the organization." I agree with him. With the literal translation of the definition, I would have to say that Hitler was in fact a great leader because he fulfilled each of the criteria listed in the definition. This is why I would tweak the definition just a bit. "Improving the organization" I find to be vague when it needs to be a pinpoint, laser-focused definition. In business, "improving the organization" can mean good things like increasing market share, better shareholder returns, or even better efficiencies. These are worthy goals but doesn't consider how it is to be accomplished. With the corporate fiascoes recently, Enron "improved the organization" and did so by cooking the books.

Without giving my full definition because I think it is a good idea to come up with a user generated, crowdsourced, common etc. leadership definition, I will propose my tweak. Instead of "improving the organization" I suggest "for the common good." This differs because the "common good" is a known thing. Other leadership definitions say "common goal" but I find this to be the synonym of "improving the organization."

By the way, the military has been a rich source of leadership theory, study, and training. Is it important to train employees, volunteers, etc. to be better leaders? I would say that if the military, which deals with very life or death circumstances, thinks it is good practice for their organization to survive, it should be considered for many organizations.

Does the "common good" seem to be a good change to the contemporary definition? By changing these few words, I would say that Hitler was not a leader at all. Yes, he had the power, but power alone is not leadership. I would conclude Hitler was a tyrant, in a sense the opposite of a leader.