What is NOT Leadership?

What is NOT Leadership?

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Too often we spend time on creating ‘To Do Lists’. Would we be more effective managers if we created ‘Stop Doing Lists’? Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great certainly thinks so.

We often hear or read about definitions or examples of great leadership. So is it important to recognise the opposite of good leadership in either ourselves or others?

John Cleese the famous comedian and Antony Jay one of the authors of TV show “Yes Minister” made a fortune from training videos that emphasised what not to do as a manager. So maybe this approach works!

The recent drugs saga in the Australian Football League (AFL) surrounding the Essendon Football Club which began in 2011 (and is still ‘unresolved’ at the time of writing) provides some good examples of ‘how not’ to be a leader.  In summary, a biochemist began a Club sanctioned supplements program with the aim of improving player and team performance. The team members were injected with unknown substances with the knowledge of the coaching staff and Club executives. While the drugs  may have been illegal (no records were kept so the drugs remain unidentified) there were further unanswered questions about possible long term health effects on the players. A lack of duty of care.

The club was fined, some board members resigned and players were provisionally suspended for the pre-season Cup pending further hearings. The head coach, the person responsible for the players went on ‘study leave’ to Europe for a season whilst still collecting his substantial salary taking no responsibility for the supplements taking regime that occurred under his management. On 1 October 2014, the club announced that they would not appeal the Federal Court’s ruling, stating that to do so would act against the interests of the players. However, the head coach appealed the Federal Court decision acting in an individual capacity and “on a matter of principle”.

This brief summary highlights some three clear examples of poor leadership and like the John Cleese training films tell us, what not to do as leaders.

  1. You don’t take responsibility when something goes wrong

It’s OK while things are going well however when something goes wrong you start to look for someone or something else to blame. Leaders take responsibility whether it’s good or bad. Taking responsibility makes you a leader. That is why people follow you. Clearly the head coach did not take responsibility for what was occurring.

  1. You put yourself first and not your team.

While the Club refused to appeal the Court decision as they deemed it would “not act against the interests of the players”, the head coach did appeal on a ‘matter of principle’ effectively putting his interests ahead of the team. It could also be argued also that the subjecting those whom you are responsible for to unknown dangers (i.e. unknown drugs in this case) is poor leadership.

3. Complacency or failure to ask questions

As the team coach, complacency or just plain incompetence for allowing an unregulated sports supplements program to be undertaken when you were ultimately responsible. As a leader you have very important responsibilities, one of which is to ask questions whether it is to ensure the safety of those you are responsible for, get the best from suppliers or seek answers to improve performance.

So as a leader, the people you are leading whether they are subordinates or people who choose to follow you, expect you to take responsibility, put the team first, actively lead the team, ask the right questions and look after their welfare……………failure to do so is NOT leadership.

6 thoughts on “What is NOT Leadership?

    • This is a great quote and highlights what helps make a leader – taking a stand, having principles, putting the team before yourself and taking responsibility. In the rarefied air of elite sports people, the coach of this football club was a previous ‘hero’ (a very overused and totally unsuitable term that sports writers use in describing sports people) and star player for the club was indulged by the club and the fans and failed to understand the self-indulgent and petulant behaviour is not leadership or even being a manager.

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