The Politics of Leadership

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The Politics of Leadership

The Politics of Leadership

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In another sense, if leadership is considered the result of the personal properties of an individual actuated in a situation, then the leadership process is dependent on those properties and is apt to produce a skewed pattern of investigation which seeks to identify the most desirable traits and characteristics according to criteria of desired outcomes. Approached as a generic process independent of such presumptions, leadership can be understood to be a political phenomenon which, like any other political cum social process, has no necessarily desirable outcome but has significant influence on the kind and nature of the outcomes that do eventuate. That leadership is a relational phenomenon is a common observation, but seeing that phenomenon as having identifiable processes and effects that occur in all cases should allow a greater degree of separation between subjective desire and objective observation. After all, we should be able to identify what processes are characteristic of leadership in all cases and treat that as an issue distinct from what may be the preferred leadership process in a given instance. Achieving Shared Organisational Goals: A leader's role in an organisation is to guide employees in achieving shared goals. The leader brings people and their efforts together to achieve common goals. The exercise of thinking about a leadership career in a different way from that of the classic ascension on the ladder of power helps us visualize the importance of having a shatterproof strategy, of taking care of oneself more, and of keeping perspective—so as not to go blind into a career without knowing the next steps, or so as not to become dependent on structures that end up squelching our enthusiasm, leaving us wondering why we do what we do.

Verba, S. 1961. Small Groups and Political Behavior: A Study of Leadership. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. It is difficult to imagine two concepts more abstract and illusive than leadership and politics, yet we must deal with each and join them in productive and parsimonious ways if a conceptual basis for theoretical development is to be established. A start may be made by restating a defining conceptualization of politics and then proceeding to construct a conceptualization of leadership on that foundation. David Easton’s now classic definition of politics may be taken as starting point. Easton proposed what became a landmark definition of politics in asserting that “politics is that social process through which values are authoritatively allocated for a political system” (Easton 1971, 143-44). That definition has been criticized for being too “system oriented” in that it fixes the processes in question in the working of established, sovereign, governmental systems. Much of that criticism can be met by broadening the concept to consider politics as a generic phenomenon that occurs within all social structures or systems, however informal. As Adrian Leftwich put it, “the fact of the matter is that, unless one adopts a very narrow view of it, politics is a pervasive feature of collective human life” (Leftwich 1990, 3).As a process within a process, leadership first must be approached in its preinstitutionalized manifestations. The formalization of authority into “public,” institutional, or organizational roles is, in strictest terms, a post-emergent phenomenon; the identification of roles that transcend a given situation as conventionally conceived leadership roles follows from the nature of leadership in its most basic form as an emergent and discontinuous behavioral phenomenon occurring in one or more structures of social interaction. The basic and universal political nature of leadership as a discrete and discontinuous phenomenon lies in the emergence of one or more actors within a set who give form and direction to the contest of values which defines the set in the first place.

Many political careers are thought of in terms of how to move up in the hierarchical power structure, many with the ultimate dream of occupying the presidency of their country. The problem with this strategy is that what is thought of as a linear path is in fact more like a mountainous path, with hills and valleys, but above all, with great uncertainty regarding what may happen in the future. Our team has been working on a difficult problem for the past week. As a team leader, I believe the group is reasonably aware of the situation's problems. I tell them I'm confident they'll find a solution and encourage them to keep coming up with new ideas. Which adaptive leadership behaviour am I most likely to use? Resentment and disenchantment exacerbate the problem, since many see political leaders at best as a privileged group unable to solve problems and at worst as corrupt individuals who take advantage of and abuse power. So, any remuneration is going to be too high, any leisure is going to be seen as superfluous, any weakness as inability. It is a model destined to fail because nothing good can come out of that dynamic. It would not be enough for a player of any elite sport to take a clinic for a couple of weeks a year to train and educate himself, nor would it help him if his training only took place during his four years at a university. There’s no question in worlds such as high-performance sports that for a person to perform at their maximum potential, certain things are required in addition to their talent and will: training, taking care of their physical body, working on their mental health, having a team that accompanies the athlete, and using technology that allows for performance evaluation. The team is led by a coach who is accompanied by specialists in various disciplines, such as nutrition, physical preparation, psychological support, and technology. This approach envisions that there must be an alignment between what one is, what one does, and what one says. It is no use thinking that one can dissociate and act out a character with the level of exposure we see today. This also requires training techniques practiced daily, as is done in physical training.Confusing leading with managing is another big mistake made in business. There’s a difference between leadership and management. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, they serve entirely different purposes. As educator and management consultant Peter Druker explains, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Politicians often receive specific training on expression or rhetorical techniques for going up on stage to give a speech or going on a television interview. This is based on the premise that a leader goes on stage a few times a day or a week, and then “turns off” the communication mode to continue with their rational tasks. But today, the political leader is in permanent communication mode—always exposed—and for that, he needs to prepare differently. Corning, P. 1984. The Synergism Hypothesis: A Theory of Progressive Evolution. New York: McGraw-Hill. Easton, D. 1971. The Political System: An Inquiry into the State of Political Science. 2d ed. New York: Knopf.

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