How Much of Leadership Is About Control, Delegation, or Theater?

Forum now closed. Summing up the many responses, Jim Heskett says that the mix of control, delegation, and theater employed by successful leaders depends on timing and circumstances. "The strongest messages I received were that if leadership involves control, it is only over setting an organization's course and priorities."
by Jim Heskett

Summing Up

Summarizing this month's rich stew of comments regarding leadership is a hazardous task. The subject is far too complex for four paragraphs. So please bear with me. The strongest messages I received were that if leadership involves control, it is only over setting an organization's course and priorities. As Brady Finney put it, "… companies growing value the most are the ones with leaders that have a clear vision, continually communicate that vision, and then get out of the way …." On the other hand, theater plays a role. Grant Koster reminds us that " … as a leader, you are always on stage … being watched, analyzed, and interpreted." But as Adam Lawrence, an actor, warns us, " … acting, or theatrics, is never about pretending to be something you are not." Combining these ideas, Sharika Kaul commented that " … like a movie director the leader incites, excites, and pushes the team or, you could say, choreographs an output that (moves) the company towards the vision."

The mix of control, delegation, and theater employed by successful leaders depends on the timing and circumstances…when and where. As Sandra Worsham says, "A blend of theater and control is required to make people feel comfortable when fundamental operating systems change …." Narendar Singh Raj Purohit adds that "… when things are getting out of control … someone has to take initiative to give a positive pep-talk and in many cases perform a theatrical leadership act, and this I believe is not deception." Karen Dempster comments that "I completely believe leaders all use a form of theatre, even quietly, to express and create hopefully a calm, delegated form of control …."

Just how the importance of leadership in an organization's success, whether 10 percent or something else, can be measured is a puzzle. Gerald Nanninga commented that " … (the) 90 percent which is attributable to the 'environment' fails to take into account (the) fact that somebody somewhere made some decisions which put the company into (or failed to get them out of) that environment …." Ann Brown asks, "How long would it take for the results of consistent leadership actions and 'action messages' to show in the bottom line?" Steve Mosley suggested that the value of 10 percent shouldn't be underestimated in pointing out that " … if firms that emphasize developing good leadership drive an extra 10 percent premium in EPS …, I think most CFOs and CEOs would salute those results."

Several shifted the topic (or did they?) to followership, suggesting an interesting set of questions. Ian Plowman initiated this line of thinking in his comment: "So is leadership about control, delegation, or theatre? It could be all three, or none of them. The answer lies in the projections of the potential followers." Ken Hedberg said, "You can tell who the leaders are by watching who has followers." Paula Cobb asks leaders to assume, in sessions she facilitates, the role of followers. She observes that, in her work, "even … leaders (agree) that when they are a follower they would rather commit than comply." Apparently speaking as a potential follower, Wale Olawore says, "Talk about leadership? I see one who wants to lift me up and help me achieve my desire in life." Ed Hare asks, "… why doesn't anyone write on the subject of 'Followership'? Maybe aspiring 'leaders' would learn more if they understood how those they are charged to lead really saw the role of their 'Leaders.' Maybe we have the subject upside down." Could we learn more about leadership by studying followership? Is leadership really about followership? What do you think?

Original Article

The flood of writing about leadership continues. It reflects our fascination with what many believe to be the most important influence on organizational performance. In a thought-provoking book published last year, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton suggest that the overriding impact of leadership on performance is a myth, or at least only a half-truth. 30 years ago, in reviewing research on leadership, Pfeffer concluded at that time that actions of leaders most often explain no more than 10 percent of performance. Such things as a company's operating environment, the economy in general, or its long-run success or failure account for more of its current performance.

Findings published since then have done nothing to change Pfeffer's mind. But he also concludes that it may be quite important for leaders to perpetuate the myth of having significant control over performance. As employees, we expect it of our leaders. In our behavior, we defer to leaders. And that reinforces their tendency to act like what we expect of leaders. According to this line of thinking, it may require that a leader act out the role, concealing real feelings in the process. In short, it suggests that some part of leadership is theater that perpetuates the half-truth that leaders are indeed in control.

Theater may take many forms. For me, the image of General George S. Patton stepping in front of a huge American flag to deliver a stirring speech, whether it really happened or not, is carefully staged theater. When he was commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Bill Bratton staged a public event in front of many members of his force in which he permanently retired the badges of several members of his department who had committed a crime "so that no other member of this department will ever have to wear them." When asked about leadership challenges, Andy Grove, legendary former CEO of Intel, once commented: "Well, part of it is self-discipline and part of it is deception—deception in the sense that you pump yourself up and put a better face on things than you start off feeling. But after a while, if you act confident, you become more confident. So the deception becomes less of a deception."

Some leadership theater is unplanned, but it requires the right reflex action on the part of the leader. For example, I once observed Bill Pollard, then CEO of ServiceMaster, spill a cup of coffee at a board meeting at the company, one offering cleaning services whose leadership had long advocated "servant leadership." Without hesitating, he asked an associate to get him some cleaning materials and proceeded to get down on his hands and knees to soak the coffee out of the carpeting while his board of directors stood watching. No one commented on what was happening. It seemed taken for granted that it was a demonstration of what a leader should do in that case.

It may be important for us to believe that our leaders have control over performance, whether or not it is true, particularly in times of turmoil or concern about the future. So to what degree should leaders become thespians, creating an impression that fits expectations? How does one do this and still maintain some sense of modesty and perspective that Jim Collins, in his research, has identified with the most effective leaders? Is some part of leadership about creating the myth of being in control while subtly transferring it to others in the organization? Or, as Pfeffer and Sutton ask, "Should leaders be in more complete control of their organizations?" What do your personal experiences lead you to believe about these issues? What do you think?

    • Brady Finney
    • Business Valuation Manager, Atlantic Management Company
    We value over a hundred companies annually. The entire staff has commented on numerous occasions that the companies growing value the most, are the ones with leaders that have a clear vision, continually communicate that vision, and then get out of the way to let the second line managers do their jobs.
    • CJ Cullinane
    In my over thirty-five years in industry I have to say theater is the major factor. Smart only goes so far, we still have to 'sell' the program, system, or product to employees and customers. How do you execute a decision without a little (or lot) showmanship?

    We all need General Patton's pearl handled pistols and war face or Lee Iococca's showmanship to sell our agenda. The basic fact is that the greatest idea in the world will not be utilized until someone sells it, and that takes theater.

    In my experience the leader who gets things done on a consistent basis has a persona (or character) that they use to get the job done. It must be consistent with the person, and they have to live it. We often see through the people who are putting on a show but we still listen to the presentation if it has enough theater.

    To lead is to sell your ideas, theater just makes it much easier.

    Charlie Cullinane
    • Phil Clark
    • Clark & Associates
    These ideas and hundreds like them miss the whole point of leadership. Leadership isn't measured by performance improvement or how well we can act. It is about relationships and helping others be better. I developed a philosophy many years ago that I teach to others. Leadership is enhancing the worth of others so they can make sound decisions. Real leaders make a difference. Turnover will be low, careers will grow, and performance will increase. I have seen real leaders change lives. I have seen them save a company. I have seen them accomplish tasks with fewer people. Leadership isn't about stuff, it's about people. Leaders don't worry about control. They realize their control and power is accomplished only by giving it away. Best suggestion I can less books and go out and do those things that improve the worth and lives of others.
    • S.V. Dalton
    • Plant Manager, DSM NeoResins+
    Let's face it; all the world's a stage. The perception of leadership is the single greatest impactor of all that transpires in this life. Like most skills it is largely learned. I love it when I see a number, as in "10% of performance". I have lived life for 57 years and am in my 40th year in manufacturing. Embracing a charismatic leadership style has enabled me to hire, develop, and retain great performers, put my wife and three children through college, and gain satifaction from seeing others stretch beyond what they thought was their potential. If that is only 10% performance improvement, I'll take it with pride!
    • Grant Koster
    • Facility Manager, Partner, AthletiCo Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine
    Leadership has been defined in many forms by many authors. It has multiple faces that continually adapt to the situation or environment in question. I'm sure we all will agree that appropriate delegation is essential to any leader, but leading by example and being in the trenches with your people is more powerful than any e-mail or memo on how to exceed customer expectations or how to demonstrate best practices. By demonstrating the positive deviance behaviors in any organization, you set the tone for those around you. Your team will look to a leader not only for guidance, direction, and praise in words, but also action.

    I can't tell you how many times I have 'caught' one of my staff doing something well and when I asked them about it, they responded, "I saw you do that" or "I thought that would be how you would have handled it". That sort of leadership and influence over one's thought process and values or belief system is powerful. I don't want to be in "complete" control. I need my staff to have individual leadership qualities that are in line with our company's belief and values system.

    As far as 'deception' or theater, I believe that as a leader, you are always on stage. Any great actor will tell you that when they are totally engaged into a role, they have a hard time turning that person/role off. The same goes for leadership. Some may call it deception, but others may call it impact. Either way, you are being watched, analyzed, and intrepreted. You will set the tone ... will others follow?
    • Vishal Nagda
    • Wipro BPO
    You can say it is a mixture of all. You need to delegate work in proper manner to the apt person along with providing required tools and advise to get things done on time. You need to take control of a situation to ensure that things do not go out of hand. Theater is always a part of the game. You are always trying to portray things in the correct manner to the person in front of you to convince him of your views and take the point forward. Leadership is always a mixture of all.

    Vishal Nagda
    • Joseph Zayac
    • Management, Philips Medical
    A good leader will use a combination of control, delegation, and theater, and additional skills to achieve the business objectives. Depending on the state of affairs with the business, the leader may choose to have total control until the climate stabilizies.

    In this time of constant change more importantly, a leader needs to be real with themselves and their employees. Change does not occur due to facts alone, but on the hearts and the passions of the team.

    How much does a leader use for control, delegation, or theater? That question could only be answered by the leaders themselves in their respective industries. In Medical Service, is a balance between all three.
    • Fernando das Neves Gomes
    • principal, independent consultant
    Hello dear friends and followers of deep thought about management.

    Talk about this topic is a big challenge, but I will try say something intelligent about this, supported with my little experience, and the way I see this modern world, and of course with some influence from Pfeiffer studies that I admire. I think leadership is equal to power, respect of people, and the belief of people in our actions.

    Must of the time I think leaders have a lot of theatre in their actions just representing a role that make people believe them. But some of them don't have the natural feeling to define the organisation concept, future actions and strategy.

    Usually this role is played by some inferior advisers. They have the capacity to understand and talk to the public in a convincing way.

    Power is most important. The team that supports the company's decisions and the board of executive directors must be totally committed to the leader, defending the big picture, giving confidence to all employers.

    In the end the leader has to have extreme intelligence to see right and wrong strategies ... and deliver a strong image of their company, making social interventions at strategic moments, well defined to the people who support them.
    • Mike Sowers
    • Sales Sales & Leasing Consultant, Norris Acura
    A good leader must be willing to empower those around them. In addition to empowerment, a leader must work to remove any encumbrances that prevent individuals from setting and reaching goals. However, true leadership is the ability to inspire individuals to rise above themsselves and perform at levels they would normally not reach.
    • Mal Rudner
    • President, Enflo Corporation and CCCC
    Leadership is indeed about motivating and serving others to be the best performers, employees and people they can. Leadership is modeling proper action and values with integrity and authenticity. "Theater" works only when the "actor" believes in their own role. Good leaders are not pretending, fooling others or fooling themselves.

    There exists a reductionist approach to leadership that is incorrect. That leadership can be isolated weighed and compared on a % basis to other organizational factors belies the complexity of people, groups and the universe.

    Complexity in the universe means that variables and
    causality are a system of non-linear, dynamic, connected relationships with feedback loops that often
    create whole, new, unexpected realities. Equilibria alternatively fizzle out, maintain themselves or yield to unpredictable inflection points, critical mass or turning points.

    "Control" contains the hidden assumption that A causes
    B. Not only is that often not true, the assumption forgets
    B's influence on A, B', C, C's influence on A'...etc. It's not a linear world. It is a dynamic world of flow and
    process--never stasis.

    Leaders might be better served taking a perspective that
    the universe IS TRULY a paradox--waves/particles, mass/energy; and that leadership has the capacity to
    range from irrelevant to critical influence, tight fisted to laissez faire control, depending upon complexity, luck, random and non-random probability.

    Good leaders will monitor the impact they are having and adapt. Even so, it's often very difficult to know whether a tight fist or free hand will cause high/low performance, revolution or chaos. As a summary of philosophy, I really enjoy the piano player's last line in the Broadway play
    about Fats Waller, "Ain't Misbehavin'": "One never knows; do one?"

    So it is with leadership. What makes a great point guard in basketball? Vision? Sure. Imagination and creativity?
    Yes. Control? Some, not much; perhaps we should call such leadership a constructive "influence". Delegation? Sometimes, in the proper doses, at the appropriate time in the proper manner with the correct person(s). Drive, pass or shoot? Slow or fast? Two points, three points? Does one truly "know"? Or does what happens, just happen? Yes to both.

    I personally like Peter Koestenbaum's approach to leadership. He creates a diamond of characteristics
    related to: Courage, Vision, Reality, Integrity. Combine
    that approach with "complex and chaotic" universe, and
    we see that if "theatre" is to be, it must be authentic, value based and accomplished with integrity. "Control" is left to the system itself("The moving finger writes, and having writ..." ) No ONE controls; only ever-connected UNITY occurs as a process. Delegation? If one likes that concept---OK, but remember we are all connected any-
    way. So, who is delegating to whom, and how does it
    affect the organizational system? Maybe that's why we know we can delegate authority but not responsibility.

    Maybe that's also why leaders of an organization are
    not necessarily the officers with titles. There's a great
    New Yorker cartoon where the visiting salesman has approached the receptionist who says: "Would you like to speak to the man in charge or the woman who knows what's going on?"
    • Catheryn Mason
    • Director, Development & Communications, Community Action Project
    Impression management is certainly important, as is leading by example and remaining mindful that your performance and behavior influence those you lead and affect employee morale more generally. Equally if not more important, however, is authenticity and transparency, which may be at odds with what we construe as theatre or performance. A leader "act[ing] out a role" without authenticity and without the fullest extent of disclosure possible in the situation is not a leader who will inspire trust or attract the best talent. Those of us who strive to be - and to be led by - strong, authentic leaders will find such performance to be simply a mask that obscures the place in a leader's psyche where real commitment and a passion for purpose should reside.
    • Alessandra Malanga
    • Domestic engineer/Painter/Independent filmmaker
    To lead is to walk the way so that who follows can see the path and walk along. This is the core of leadership, no matter to which circumstances it is applied. Someone once said: "The more you posses ,the more you are willing to give away". It refers to inner strenght, and a strong leader is the one that has such a strong and heartfelt vision, that doesn't fear sharing to empowering others to take the right steps on their own.

    Sharing of one's power and vision doesn't underestimate the strength of a true leader, his personal security, his strenght , his talents. A true leader, the one that will leave a positive and powerful legacy, a legacy that will outlive beyond the contingencies of his work, is the one that walked the way, lived his ideals and his vision with integrity and congruity, that first took risks but also the one that prepared himself well, always did "his homework", constantly studied and tried to improve himself as a person and to grow.

    I have been fortunate to spend most of my life with a true leader of this kind, my father. He rose to become the chief of medicine in one of the most important hospitals of Italy, having to deal daily with issues of life and death, of maximizing the limited resources at hand while providing the best care possible to everybody, leading a team of dozens of people made up of doctors, student apprentices, paramedics, nurses, etc.

    He never, despite his incredible knowledge of medicine (he had four specializations), acted following a script, he never had the arrogance that his position could allow him. Instead he led from his heart and from his beliefs, with coherence, with humility, with modesty, even expressing his doubts when he had them, willing to be responsible for his own actions.

    As a leader he was always encouraging his team to take initiatives, to dare, to see things under many different perspectives, but most of all to be coherent and honest to the vision. It is difficult to lead this way, especially in America, where there is a culture that is not very keen to foster critical thinking, or the search for substance behind the appearences. This creates a susceptibility for manipulation and insecurity in the individuals, which translates into diminished productivity and loss of growth within a company. The human being, the manager, the worker, perceives that something is wrong, even if he or she cannot quite well identify it. This in turn lowers the morale and make people fearful. When the employees are fearful, insecure, have lost enthusiasm, are depressed, then the company is in serious trouble and society suffers the consequences too.

    The true kind of leadership that I refer to instead produces the opposite results, fosters true growth and competence in a company, assures and increases a sense of belonging, of connectedness of interdependency among collaborators. Who leads this kind of company/group has to possess great competence and knowledge of the field but also knowledge of the world that can give her or him an open mind and more dimensions to his thinking. This leader has to be willing to be completely trasparent in all of his actions. Coherence and honesty and knowledge are the real strengtht of a leader like this, therefore, when in time of doubt or of hardship he doesn't have to fake. His followers, his managers, his team know that he is strong and totally committed to better serve everybody and represent everybody.

    It takes a lot of courage and a lot of self esteem to let go and empower others and also to maintain modesty and always assume that one is doing the best he could but there is always a chance of error, because our knowledge for how big it could be it is always limited. The rewards are incredible: The legacy lasts forever. To this day , after 16 years from his death, on the anniversary of his death all his ex apprentices, now extablished medical doctors, and ex colleagues, pay homage to him traveling together to his grave and gathering to remember that the vision is still alive through them.
    • Joby James
    It is interesting to see how the leadership topic always stirs up a discussion!

    First of all, many don't understand the difference between a manager and a leader. Control, delegation or theatre all can be part of management tools which vary according to the situation and company the person is operating at. This is where the culture of an organization is considered to be very important.

    Who is a real leader? What traits do you show when trouble brings you and your people down to knees? Is it fight or flee? What would people really talk about your qualities as a person once after you are gone from the world or even out of their sight? To me genuineness towards others is the prime most leadership trait. If it is not really in a person, the medals and honors are not worth much.

    Much of the traits are inborn, and I won't deny the fact that many qualities can be learned or made better. It is similar to sound mixers, meaning you can't totally alter the person on qualities that are such a part of your own DNA and who you really are.

    One should first try to be a better person and rest of the things will follow if you have the will. So control, delegation and theatre don't come as a priority in leadership.

    Maybe you want to read the story:

    There was a bleak and cold day in which George Washington stepped out of his headquarters. It was cold so he drew on his great coat, turned up his collar and pulled his hat down to shield his face from the cold, blowing wind. He walked down the road to where the soldiers were fortifying a camp and no one recognized this tall muffled man who was in fact the commander of the army. He came across a group of soldiers who were under the command of a corporal. They were building a breast work of logs and the corporal, all filled with himself as being important and superior, kept on barking orders. "Up with it," he cried. "Now altogether push!" They were trying desperately to push this final log up on top of the crest. Each time they tried just at the last moment, the thing would fall back. They were exhausted. The corporal would again say, "Up with it! What ails you? Up with it!" The men would tug again and again and the log came crashing down because they weren't quite strong enough to do it. Finally, the third time he starts barking at them, Washington himself goes up to them and exerts all his strength to push the log and it falls into place. The exhausted men were about to thank this unknown soldier. At that point he turned to the corporal and said, "Why don't you help your men with the heavy lifting when they need another hand?" The corporal replied, "Don't you see that I'm a corporal?" Washington said, "Indeed," as he opened up his coat and revealed his uniform. "I'm the Commander-in-Chief. The next time you have a log too heavy for your men to lift, send for me!"
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • VP, Retail Ventures, Inc.
    To say that leadership can only explain 10% of performance is a bit narrow-minded. That 90% which is attributable to the "environment" fails to take into account that fact that somebody somewhere made some decisions which put the company into that environment (or failed to get the company out of that environment).

    One of my favorite examples is in the grocery wholesaling business. Right now, that is not a very good environment to be in--margins are terrible and the independent grocery customers are going bankrupt. Over the past couple of decades, three companies made decisions which caused their current situation. Fleming stayed which the industry and disappeared. Supervalu transitioned from wholesale to retail and improved its situation. Cardinal Health left the industry altogether and transitioned into health care and has a good environment.

    As soon as a leader realizes that they truly can greatly impact their environment, it gives the bravado to act as if they really can control their destiny. But sometimes it takes great change to get there. A little showmanship may be necessary to get people on board for the bumpy ride.
    • Bette Price, CMC
    • CEO & President and Author of "True Leaders", The Price Group
    I would have to tend to agree with Phil Clark, that leadership is more about building others which, when done well, energizes teams which in turn genearte top performance. Theatre may be a part of occasional leadership messages which are company-wide in scope and of major significance, yet even then, it is important for the leader not to appear as "grand-standing." True leaders have a desire for power and control; not in the sense of command and control, but in setting direction, philosophy, and strategy. The power in the position should never take a leader away from the fundamentals that brought the leader to the position of power. When I interviewed James Copeland, former Chairman and CEO of DeLoitte & Touche and asked about power and control I loved his response: "Don't breath your own exhaust," he urged. "There are some fundamental things that got you into that position of trust; just stick to those values and don't get seduced by the position, because it is seductive."

    I believe Copeland's words are spoken with great wisdom. Thus it is the day-to-day consistency of the trust of a leader that must accompany any theatre or it may be perceived as disingenuous by today's savvy, well educated generation of future leaders.

    To add to this, rather than utilizing much theatre, leaders may be better advised to follow the philosophy of retired President and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Lou Smith, who believes that to effectively control with strong leadership one must "listen to learn, then lead."
    • John Stahl-Wert
    • President, CEO and Co-Author of "The Serving Leader" and "Ten Thousand Horses", Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation
    Without any doubt, leadership includes theater, both staged and unstaged. One of the marks of great leadership is that the unstaged performances--the leader's everyday acts and gestures which everybody except the leader sees perfectly clearly--match the staged ones. Does effective leadership require paying attention to the theater of leadership? Yes! Communication needs powerful performative versions.

    But as the author points out with regard to Bill Pollard, and as several comments have underscored, nothing can prepare the leader to meet the crucial test of unplanned and unstaged moments quite like "being" what one tries to appear to be. Authenticity reveals itself in due course.

    People give their best selves to leaders who are what they project, who do what they say, who deliver what they promise. Leadership includes theater. But "acting" must be accompanied by a commitment to "growing," not just "masking." The audience knows the difference.
    • Anonymous
    I'm not convinced of the author's contention concerning leadership. In my opinion, of the 5 functions of management, leadership still seems to hold the key to success.

    Furthermore, as a student of Jungian psychology and the Myers-Briggs Type indicator, there is a strong correlation between a leader's style and the MBTI type of the organization.

    If it's merely theater, then in many cases it's "Last Comic Standing"!
    • I. Barry Goldberg
    • Executive and Leadership Coach, Entelechy Partners
    Leadership as a topic does indeed stir the hearts and keyboards of the business community. Given that my charter is to help others develop their own leadership capacity, it may be ironic that I do not have a strong disposition about how to define or value leadership.

    Leadership is (or can be) all of the things described by commentators here. It is both skill with managing task and effective capacity in human relationships. It includes great theater to drive home a point and inspire the troops just as it includes the ability to take control when situations warrant.

    Anyone who aspires to lead must develop their own form of leadership for the simple reason that emulating the successful behaviors of others is a hit and miss proposition. Authenticity and integrity are critical to making both relationship and theater successful.

    Very often, most of leadership is awareness. If I take control, is it because the situation requires it and I am the best person to do so? Or is it because my own discomfort with allowing a process to be run by others allows for little other option? If I emphasize the positives in meetings with staff and directs, is it a result of a balanced reinforcement or an unwillingness to have the more courageous conversations often needed to improve accountability?

    We all have a default behavior and set of lenses through which we view the world. In my experience, those who have built skillful leadership are those who have built capacity in the areas that are not their default comfort zones. They have more skills in their repertoire, and more wisdom about which one to reach for, and when.
    • Fernando Ferreira
    • Improvements Coordinator, General Dynamics OTS
    True leaders are far from being theatrical. In my personal experience of being in leadership positions I have found that the followings are key to being a leader:

    1) Integrity -- The leader is honest with fellow employees or subordinates
    2) Service -- A leader will assist/guide their team members as required
    3) Praise/Correct -- A leader knows when to praise or correct as appropriate
    4) Choose team members -- The true leader will be careful in choosing his team to insure similar leadership values and integrity
    5) Council -- Leaders will surround themselves with good advisors and then make wise decisions based on the leaders values.
    6) Not self seeking -- The true leader will always place the betterment of the employees, investors, and the company first.
    7) Respect -- They will always respect every individual no matter what their position or status may be.
    8) Humility -- A leader is not afraid to show were he/she has failed and will not take advantage of position or status or accomplishments to bolster their ego or take advantage of their authority.
    9) Expect the best -- A leader will expect the best from those he leads realizing that we all make mistakes.
    10) Rewards -- The true leader will not hold back from rewarding those who have worked hard to accomplish their goals.

    10 Commandments of Leadership
    • Jorge L. Rodriguez
    • President & CEO, PACIV
    Leaders understand that their decisions shape destiny. Look at the guy in front of the tank in Tianamen Square, look at Rosa Parks, look at Ghandi, look at Napoleon Bonaparte, look at Che Guevara....and many, many other unkown leaders...Leaders are fully aware of the process (1) What are you going to focus on - which provides the meaning for (2) what does this mean - which provides the emotion to (3) what are you going to do about it. Relationships, and everything else, are attributes needed to be a "steward" of leadership ... leaders do not own leadership ... leaders are "stewards" of leadership.

    Leaders should be able, through their stewardship, to become "stewards of affluence" and "stewards of influence" as Mr. Rick Warren very well puts it. I will say that leaders must do thier homework exploring their web and understanding what is their worldview because only when they understand their worldview; then as leaders, their stewardship will determine their decisions, relationships, level of confidence and as leaders be able to influence others...our belief determines our behavior and our behavior determines what we become in life. True leaders understand that significance in life comes from giving their life away to others, becoming truly stewards in life....
    • Sandra Worsham
    • Materials Manager, Hawker Beechcraft
    What the question does not take into account is that there are different levels required for different maturity levels of an organization. A blend of theater and control is required to make people feel comfortable when fundamental operating systems change or business rules change and to assure that basic rules are properly governed. A certain learning level must be acquired by a group before delegation can be comfortably used.

    The key element for a good leader is proper diagnosis of the situation. And the key tool is definitely active listening.
    • Ulysses U. Pardey, MBA
    • Managing Director, Am-Tech, S.A., Panama, Rep. of Panama
    "Should leaders be in more complete control of their organizations?" What do your personal experiences lead you to believe about these issues?

    Based on my personal experiences of several decades in business, management and leadership, I am convinced so far that:

    -There is always room for some elegant staged show which favors the leader; however, leadership should be defined and conveyed by the company within its own organizational jurisdiction, as leadership in general terms could be guidance, management, control and eventually something else. I believe that leadership can be put into words.

    -The company should state the job to be done by the positioned leader and the corresponding metrics including an adequate follow-up. It should also provide the leader with the needed assistance so that he/she can be in command of the full deployment of his/her performance, as it is useful for the company that what must happen today to get there tomorrow, truthfully occurs in due time.

    -Expected performance must be feasible opportunities the company can count on. I believe employees should be aware, whenever possible, of what the leader's job is all about in order to earn their support and to avoid misunderstandings about the leader?s expertise. It is highly possible that companies need to learn how to deal professionally with leaders beyond their interpersonal relationships.
    • Anonymous
    Leadership is not a new topic, top management always likes to give order and control but not to coach subordinates in Chinese organizations. They play theater for 100% of working hours; ... we still to have hard work with super low income. The department head explained leadership to us: follow the rule and listen to me!
    • Prabhas Sinha
    • Product Manager, CA
    It is not a leader who needs to be in control of an organization. S/he needs to empower his/her employees to be in control of the organizational goals. If they got it right, they will execute it with perfection. All they need to know that they got a leader from whom they will draw support -- be it success or a failure. I was listening to Steven Sonsino of London Business School where he mentioned very appropriately, "We are conditioned to believe that only people who are competent to evaluate us are other people: Parents, Teachers, Bosses etc. Reality is that the Only person who knows how hard u tried, how much effort u put in, how honest u r, how dedicated were you --It's ONLY you. It is not a soft option though. You've got to be honest in self evaluation."

    Leaders must explain the vision of WHAT and WHY and let the team figure out HOW. Engage the team, be fair & reliable and overall TRUST will be getting in place.

    As a leader, Yes, one is always on a theatre. People watch you, so you've got to perform to their expectation and give them a feeling of working with a great leader; this would eventually emerge as sense of ensemble performing, day after day.

    And before you proclaim or TRY to be a leader, ask yourself "What's my leadership brand?" If you don't have it, don't venture out. Do the homework first.
    • Karen Dempster
    • Managing Director, Karen Dempster & Assoc Creating Change
    The use of Theatre, Control and Delegation I believe can be intrinsically interwoven through an organisation's stratas of leadership - not merely being an expression of the main, acknowledged, "Leader's" persona. There can be a tonal varience of opinions, a flow of controls through structure, and a risk tolerance of delegations permeating an organisation as it grows and refines under either a culture inherent from start up, or developed over time through intelligent succession and change.

    It is when there is incongruence through jarring change, or a leader recruits and develops other leaders poorly that Control, Delegation and Theatre I feel start to become visible, and apparent to the staff and the customer base as false or poor choices. Theoretically, in my opinion at least, alignment of values, thinking styles and vision (or visions) that are congruent to the Leader/s and an ongoing influx of personnel over time should create an ease of use of the above "tools" when appropriate.

    I completely believe leaders all use a form of Theatre, even quietly, to express and create hopefully a calm, delegated form of control through appropriate choice of others in whom they have confidence. Poor leaders often neglect or delegate this aspect inappropriately, to their detriment. In fact, great leaders I feel have sufficient true confidence to allow those persons chosen the freedom to also control, delegate and create the theatrical environment in which the businesses can star in an appropriate manner. Leaders that grant others their "being-ness" to be different, but surround themselves with those of complementary values and drive that make control/delegation decisions based on multi-facet analysis can be enriched by the expansion of the entity in more ways than through profit. Perhaps they are a little intuitive in nature, but I suspect that is what makes for mysterious levels of brilliance. Recruit well I say. All else shall flow fairly naturally.
    • CS Yoopetch
    Leadership can partly change the way the organization performs. People in the organizations usually keep their eyes on the leader or find some topics to talk about their leader. Staff tend to react to the ideas and commands of the leaders. We have seen many companies move from success to failure or from failure to success. On the other side, for many large firms with sound fundamentals when they change the leaders they can still perform well sometimes without noticing that they have changed the leaders. Then, to me the concept and of leadership in organization may be quite difficult to generalize across the board to all types of organizations. Culture, structure and other factors may also play important roles in organization performance.
    • Surendra S. Arya
    • General Manager (Quality) & Program Dir. People Management Org. Initiative, R Systems International
    With over 25 years in Military and about nine years in the Corporate world, I have experienced leadership little differently:

    -- Leadership is more of 'Direction' through Vision, Values, and personal Code of Conduct and much less control which is largely a routine management function.
    -- Leadership is mentoring and motivation, enabling common people to achieve uncommon results as individuals/ teams. It's all about firing the atomic energy in people, their empowerment.
    -- A leader is identified and remembered for his/ her personal character which is an embodiment of Competence and Trust inspiring respect and heart-felt followership
    -- A leader can not be divorced from the person what one is. It's the personal conduct and sense of purpose and common good which makes them immortal: Like Gandhi, Budha, ....
    -- Success and performance are important for a leader but low on the scale of criticality. Leaders make the path to follow, not merely show a path to follow.
    • Jackie Le Fevre
    • Director, Magma Effect
    Leadership makes a difference - you only have to watch groups of people who have lost any sense of direction to see that. How much difference leadership makes depends in part, to my mind, on what gaps there are to fill. I agree with Mal and Bette earlier in this discussion about the significance of values. Individuals who are able to explicitly demonstrate how their actions, decisions and purpose are founded on values that they adhere to consistently in effect "model" a way of being for everyone around them. When whole rafts of individuals find themselves with "permission" to be authentic and drive for what really matters to them and their organisation then performance really takes off.
    • Sharika Kaul
    • Business Strategist, Media Company, India
    I think leadership is a combination of all three - control or decentralised control but tied up with a thinking process, delegation so that the scale of achievement is not restricted to the capability of one and so has a multiplier effect and a little theatre cos the team needs to be able to see the imagination/vision of the leader - like a movie director the leader incites, excites and pushes the team or you could say choreographs an output that needs to move the company towards the vision. A little bit of all three in various degrees in required, depending on the context.
    • Ian Plowman PhD
    • Director, Ian Plowman Pty Ltd
    The article contains the following sentences: 'As employees, we expect it of our leaders. In our behavior, we defer to leaders.' This extract talks to an essential, though often overlooked, characteristic of 'leaders'. They are in a relationship with 'followers'. In fact, by default, the definition of a 'leader' is 'someone who has 'followers'. 'Following' is arguably a voluntary activity.

    The literature on authority relations (Kahn & Kram, 1994) suggests there are individual differences in the way a person would position themselves in an authority relationship. These unconscious positions are 'dependent' (surrenders self in order to fit comfortably into a hierarchy and knows how to exercise authority downward and defer upwards), 'counterdependent' (to be resistent to hierarchy whilst preserving one's sense of self), or 'interdependent' (fitting into hierarchy without surrendering sense of self). Whilst the first is blindly deferent to hierarchy, and the last acknowledges its value where appropriate, counterdependents are unlikely to defer to those who might be defined as 'leaders' by others

    There may be three different type of 'leaders' that 'followers' are attracted to. First is the 'legitimate leader' (often the titular head who represent a group to itself or outsiders); second is the 'effective leader', a role that is context specific (and is defined by the specific expertise required at any particular moment); third is the 'empathic leader', the person who is in tune with and supportive of our emotional state at any particular time. Rarely, if ever, are these three types of 'leader', that 'followers' might psychologically unconsciously seek, found in the one person. (This typology of leaders is not mine, though its source is unknown to me.)

    There is often confusion surrounding the concepts of 'leaders' and 'leadership'. My research suggests that it is possible to have leaders with leadership, leaders without leadership, leadership without leaders, and no leadership with no leaders.

    So is leadership about control, delegation, or theatre. It could be all three, or none of them. The answer lies in the projections of the potential followers.

    Since those followers are volunteers with mobility choice to move towards, stay, or move away from - depending upon their particular psychological state or trait - the resultant net effect is a culture with expectations that 'leaders' ignore at their peril.
    • Saptarshi
    Control, Delegation or Theatrics?

    All of the above rely on an extrinsic set of variables. These variables when used in a certain combination and proportion deliver one of the many optimum Leadership styles which are conducive for a certain environment.
    I emphasise here on the term environment rather than organization or industry because each industry and organization has to contend with the inevitable: A changing landscape / environment that calls for a differential leadership style.

    To transcend the external factors and obviate over reliance on any of the above "leadership styles" a true leader needs to Motivate. Truly motivated staff at the far end of the spectrum needs no control, delegation or theatrics (Easier said than done). A true leader directs (not controls) a staff intrinsically motivated.

    Leadership via Motivation?... Now that's a separate discussion altogether!
    • Anonymous
    The overall impact of leadership is often situational, war or peace time. A particular situation may dictate emergent or programmatic change initiatives for business survival reasons. To this extent, I do not agree with the 10% ceiling on performance improvement. Reward can be a lot more significant, especially treading in uncharted waters and confronted by weak superstructures often encountered in developing cultures. Theater is often a means to an end.
    • Anonymous
    A true leader must have EQ, IQ, SQ and then people will feel confident in believing in he / she as leaders of this calibre normally walk their talk. Leaders of this nature are few and far to find and when you do find one - you have piece of gold.

    I am not sure on all the various tests done - currently companies still have poor leadership. With Sarbanes Oxley and Corporate Governance, BEE etc - How can you not be authentic?
    • Dennis P. Collins
    • Commander, HHC Garrison, Fort Knox, KY
    Dear Mr. Heskett,

    Thank you for an excellent article. I appreciate your insight and your references to General Patton. Should your travels ever take you to the Louisville or Fort Knox area of Kentucky I highly recommend you make a stop at the Patton Museum. It will give you the opportunity to learn first hand about the life & leadership of General George S. Patton Jr. I have listed the Museum's website below.

    Captain Dennis P. Collins

    PS: This letter reflects my personal opinions, not those of the United States Army.
    • Sherpa
    True leadership capability is a gift from one's mother and reflects the way in which one is raised. If the leader is honest and true to self and cause, all will follow without hesitation.
    • Ed Hare
    • Retired Director, Strategy and Quality, Fortune 300 Mnf'r.
    I agree that Phil Clark (post #3) captures the essence of how much written about "leadership" runs amok. Control, delegation, theater? Please. There is no recipe for great leadership. It is situational and personal. The best leaders have an intuitive ability to diagnose what followers need and they provide it. They can do that in-the-moment, as George Patton did or George Washington in cited examples, but are guided by their own principles and values aimed at the greater goals.

    As others point out, great leaders are genuine ... they shouldn't be actors. If they get the mix right (no small feat!!) ... people will follow, willingly. On that subject, why doesn't anyone write on the subject of "Followership"? Maybe aspiring "leaders" would learn more if they understood how those they are charged to lead really saw the role of their "Leaders". Maybe we have the subject upside down. And be careful about the military analogies ... command brings with it a whole different set of dynamics to leadership.
    • Adam Lawrence
    • Experience Director, Work?Play?Experience
    Stimulating thoughts, thank you.

    As an actor using theatrical technique in business, I must point out one very important point - acting, or theatrics, is ~never~ about pretending to be something you are not.

    A great actor like Sir Anthony Hopkins does not deceive, does not dissemble - he ~reveals~. There is always truth behind good acting - it is emphasised, thrown into contrast, even exaggerated, but it is truth.

    A leader using theatrical skills in business or political life will use those techniques to emphasise certain aspects of who they are, and to draw attention to them. They might also choose to play down other parts of their personality.

    But lying is not theater. If we lie, we fail.


    Adam Lawrence
    • Tim Conrad
    • Manager, Gates Corporation
    Great leaders have the ability to set high expectations.

    Whether you talk about Jefferson, Lincoln, Patton, or any other great leader, the best leaders establish outcomes and performance expectations, then as other commentators have suggested, get out of the way so managers and staff can achieve those outcomes.

    Leadership is a skill anyone can learn, but most managers equate influence with control and spend too much time trying to gain control while lacking the courage to turn loose responsibility.

    That ability to release control is what separates leaders from managers. Leaders learn they do not have to control behavior to influence outcomes.

    I once read (I do not remember where) that there are only three reasons people do not do their jobs:

    1. They Can't (they lack the ability)
    2. They Couldn't (resources or other factors prevented it)
    3. They Won't (they just refuse)

    Leadership, and the high expectations established therein empower employees to excel.
    • Luke Lee
    • Resource Facilitator, Stafford Engineering
    Leaders are like glue, they know how to glue people to the right place, to pull their teams and individual together, to make the whole team look good and to 100% clearly understand which areas of their team need a little bit more glue on. How I understand control here really should be about managing the actual relationships and abilities of team members. Leaders are sometimes not visible but the team will fall apart with them.
    • Amit Danwar
    • Project Manager, IRIS Software
    I agree to the philosophy of leadership as control, delegation and theatre. In my little experience of management, I strongly support "Control" and "delegation" and if i have to choose one then i would choose delegation, with delegation we have double advantage. First, when we delegate work responsiblites we groom the people by making them responsible and second, we develop a trusting relationship. Trust is a very important factor in building an organisation. Control is required initially in execution.... This does not mean a leader should lose control; a good leader always keep track even of milestones. One more major factor in leadership is transparency. Theatre is required just to keep people intact with you. Power, mathematically, is a product of trust, control and theatre.
    • Muder Chiba
    • EVP, TNS India
    So much wisdom to add to the very confused picture of how to 'learn' leadership! Whereas the heart wants to agree with the concept that leadership is theatre, the mind does not.

    2 of the best leaders I have worked with made a difference to my life, developed directions. With very little outward flair. With none of the brash, flash leadership "theatrical tricks" typically used to exemplify great leaders.

    These are leaders who avoided public displays, avowed that they were 'techically weak' in the business we were in but took the company and the people into high growth spirals. Both of them had a clearly identifiable people-centric code of ethics.

    And this is why I clearly identify with Phil Clark's views ... it's not about stuff, it's about people.
    • Ken Hedberg
    • President, PDRI
    Leadership shows itself in different ways in various situations. One common feature, simply: you can tell who the leaders are by watching who has followers.

    I was once asked about leadership and leaders by a university student. My answer surprised me. After a pause I said, "Leaders always show two things: a will to lead and a willingness to lead." 'Will' refers to the drive and desire to take charge, to get others to do things toward a common goal. 'Willingness' captures the essence of the cost of leadership: subordinating personal preferences and desires to the common objective; facing whatever situation that comes up, including many uncomfortable, difficult ones; ordering one's life so that organizational goals takes a paramount place, sometimes at the cost of personal relationships; taking risks for organizational achievement, exposing yourself to the judgment and criticism of others in doing so; etc.

    Much of the endless discussion over the past century regarding leadership comprises opinionated debates about 'the right leadership', 'good' vs. 'bad' leaders, and so forth. Heskett rightfully reminds us of Pfeffer's and Sutton's lessons: Leadership is essential - someone has to be out front; leadership shows common features but expresses itself differently in each situation; leadership generates limited impact on organizational results. Would that every leader remembered these simple, empowering, yet also humbling lessons!
    • Todd J Wente
    • Director of Faculty Development, Stevens Henager College, Ogden, Utah
    What a wonderful set of questions. I assume the questions are really directed to leaders who are either beginning their careers or trying to make a move to a larger sphere of influence, as established and effective leaders have probably developed some sort of balance concerning these issues already.

    Many comments have approached the theater issue from the standpoint of actor. I believe that leaders fit more as a director. Having been on the stage for over 2 decades, I can attest that directors who are most effective can demonstrate, and must be able to demonstrate at any moment, what they are asking of the actors in a production. Additionally, the director must be willing to step aside at some point and simply allow the "show [to] go on." The leader must realize that their instruction and the inspiration of the performers will blend into something that will capture the vision the director/leader shared but that it will also include some genius from the performers.

    The issues of control and delegation, which I see as two extremes on a continuum, are also very fluid, requiring the leader to know which of her direct reports require more or her direct involvement (control) in their decision making and execution processes and which require less. Ideally, the leader is again a kind of director, guiding the direct report from a place where more control is necessary and delegation is more common.

    This type of leadership will likely be rare in today's economy, as individuals do not stay with organizations for extended periods of time. The type of leadership that I am describing is somewhat more transformational and less tactical. But then, tactics reside in the realm of management, not leadership.

    To conclude, leaders might be well served to take some cues from theater directors, learning to model, delegate and control based on the needs of the "show" at any moment in time.
    • John Vasquez
    • Manager, Wichita Falls Police Department
    A leader is only as good as their people make them! Leaders need to allow their people to grow. We must share our knowledge, training and experience to facilitate their growth. Don't spoon feed them answers to their questions. When they ask us questions, respond by asking questions to get them thinking on their own. This increases confidence in themselves and before you know it, they are thinking like you and arriving at the same decision we would make.

    I believe the word theatrical, as used in some of the comments, is used to mean a negative leadership attribute. Instead of using "theatrical" (or any variation), how about a leader having a "golden tongue" to subtly influence others? Regardless of the word used, a leader MUST be genuine and honest at all times to gain the respect and support of their people; thereby maintaining an open line of communications to effectively and efficiently meet the established goals and objectives.
    • Adam Dawson
    • HBS Hopeful :-), For the Class of 2010
    This article and these comments are great. I would just add one thing. The empowering leader, the influential leader, indeed, the *followed* leader engages in theatre, but he must also have buy-in. In other words, if a leader cleans up his own spilled coffee in front of his board of directors, but demonstrates ineptitude or tyrancy to his employees, he will not be successful. If people follow a leader's theatrics, it's only because they believe on the inside that he is capable of doing what he is talking about extremely well.
    • James Bigwood
    • Supervisor - Operations, Turn-Key Forging and Design, Inc.
    I have found that good leadership can help improve performance. However there does not need to be any theatrics involved. What my employees respond to the best is respect. If people honestly believe that you respect them on a personal level, they will respect you. My employees are willing to "go the extra mile" when this respect is mutual. If your training programs are sufficient, your people know what to do. Some of them have been performing their jobs for many years. In my organization, the effort is centered around constant improvement. People must be willing to get on board with changes that will bring about the improvements. Shake a hand now and then and smile each day. But you have to mean it. They can tell when you are "acting." Employees are very perceptive. They appreciate a leader that wants the best from them and for them.
    • Paula K. Cobb, MEd
    • Sr. Leadership Curriculum Strategist, Fifth Third Bank
    The descriptions of George Patton and Bill Bratton's actions are wonderful examples of theater, not leadership. Sometimes leaders need to use theater to get people's attention, and many in leadership positions do that well. However, being in a leadership position does not automatically make one a leader. When Bill Bratton permanently retired badges of unethical department members, he got attention. The true measure of his leadership would be in the behaviors he used every day to demonstrate that criminal behavior would not be tolerated, or, if he turned his head when someone crossed the line of ethical behavior. If leaders use theater to gain attention, they should use caution. They take the stage, the spotlight shines on them? then what? Expectations are raised, and if they do not deliver to those expectations, or if their actions do not mirror their words, their credibility is destroyed, along with much of their ability to influe

    Dr. Heskett asks if leaders should be in more complete control of their organizations. In most organizations today, I believe that those leaders who try to keep control will fail. Global economics demand a level of flexibility and complexity beyond what a single individual can influence over the long term. There may be specific situations in which control is needed. However, for long term success, leaders who use a bit of theater to share their vision, ignite passion in their followers, and give them the tools to succeed, won?t need to worry about control. Their followers will make them wildly successful, and will make a personal choice to continue following as long as possible. A former boss once asked a rhetorical question in a presentation to leaders, and I have continued to ask it in every leadership session I've facilitated. She asked these leaders, "are you inspiring commitment or compliance?" Over the years, this has generated much rich conversation, with a common theme surfacing - even these leaders agreed that when they are a follower they would rather commit than comply. So, ask yourself as leaders-are YOU inspiring commitment or compliance?
    • Adrienne Watson
    • Management Accountant, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
    I agree with Phil Clark and Bette Price. In addition, a good leader must possess a sense of purpose, drive, passion, empathy with others, a keen sense of self-awareness and a propensity to be curious.
    A question: Why is it that, with so many opinions, much research and numerous conclusions about what makes a good leader, there are so few who can be identified as being a true leader?
    • Narendar Singh Raj Purohit
    • Assistant Manager - Institutional Service Delivery, MetLife India Insurance Co. Pvt. Ltd.
    Yes, as a confidence building measure leaders do become actors because they are the people who have to present a positive face in-front of the employees, share holders and in-front of the extremely competitive business environment. If this type of confidence translates into tangible success in the future for the organization, then in that case, the approach is viewed has more rational then merely staged drama. Positive vibes always results in positive thinking; and this is what drives people to achieve short and long term goals for their organization.

    When things are fine, there is no reason to stage a melodramatic act, because results speak for themselves. But, when things are getting out of control and negative vibes flow up and down the organization. That's when; someone has to take initiative to give a positive pep-talk and in many cases perform a theatrical leadership act and this I believe is not deception. But at the same time, leaders have to be ethical in the sense that they don't make a mess of the entire act.

    Take for example, our beloved fairy-tale cartoon character, "Superman". Superman (Leader) has to act in front of general public that he is a normal guy and doesn't have any magical power to be like a Superman. But, whenever the trouble comes, he knows that he has to gear-up to save the world (His Organization) from the clutches of evil (competition, bankruptcy, etc.,). He has to do a heroic act.

    "Every act is a show and everyone is acting."
    • Anonymous
    There is certainly a component of theater necessary in leadership, specifically the capability of story-telling. Being able to deliver a message in a way that resonates with people means that how you deliver the content is as important as the content itself.
    • David Lenchus
    • Entrepreneur/Theater Director and Composer
    Theatrics are no easier in the boardroom than on stage.
    And there are many terrible actors on stage.
    • Bertrand Dussert
    • Executive Director in HR, UBS AG
    The arithmatic of quatifying the contribution to financial performance that leadership makes relative to other factors misses the point. Leadership's strongest impact is in my experience in a strong leader's ability to attract and engage the very best talent to get the work done. Theatre can play a role in this facet of leadership effectiveness.

    While many external factors affect a business, financial performance, vast differences still remain in the performance of companies in similar external contexts. While corporate culture can have a huge impact, leaders set the tone for the culture and can create an accountability framework that greatly improves the predictability of an organization's financial performance.

    By watching leaders increasing employee engagement and optimizing selection, I have directly observed that great leadership can make all of the difference in financial performance.

    More than the effectiveness of any one individual, I have also observed large differences in the performance of an organization based on the collaborative dynamics of it's leadership team. A great leadership team that works very well together and is on the same page can make much more than a 10% difference in financial outcomes. While I am speculating somewhat as to how much this observation can be generalized, I can confirm that it applies for early to mid growth technology companies working to move from financial burn to profitability. I would risk my own money on that premise.
    • Anonymous
    A leader is someone who is elected by those s/he is leading, and gains power by virtue of being elected.

    An unelected person who has power over you is a dictator.

    Leadership is a system. In Systems Thinking, a system is something that results from the interactions among its parts. Without the interactions, the system wouldn?t exist. Hence, a relationship is a system - it is the result of the interaction between two individuals; it is the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. And without the interaction, the relationship ceases to exist.

    Fundamentally, leadership is a relationship between two individuals - the leader and the person being led. As Ian Plowman (post #30) says, "They [leaders] are in a relationship with 'followers.'" Hence, leadership is a system.

    As Mal Rudner (post # 10) says, "There exists a reductionist approach to leadership that is incorrect. Complexity in the universe means that variables and causality are a system of non-linear, dynamic, connected relationships with feedback loops that often create whole, new, unexpected realities."

    So rather than an analytical, reductionist approach, leadership needs a systems approach. Systems have emergent properties, ie properties that emerge when the individual parts interact. In a dictatorship system, the dictator and subjects are the parts, and fear is the dominant emergent property. In a leadership system, the citizens and the elected leader are the parts, and freedom is the emergent property.

    If you do not have freedom, you do not have leadership. And you cannot have leadership if you don't have elected leaders. If you don't have elected leaders, you have a dictatorship - a "fear system."

    To get elected, a leader can be theatrical. Once elected, a leader can be controlling. Leaders can be good or bad. But before they're called 'good' leaders or 'bad' leaders, they must be leaders first - i.e. they must be elected.
    • Appolo Goma
    • Warehouse and Outbound Logistics Manager, Oando Energy Services Ltd Nigeria
    A leader basically sets direction and creates an enabling environment for his followers to achieve the goals and visions of the organisation. A leader must exhibit values that are worthy of emulation by his surbordinates and must be a shining example of the ideals he preaches.

    No matter how good a leader's vision is, if his actions contradict the direction he sets he will fail in the long run. In the short run the people will of course do as you tell them, but after watching you for a while they will begin to copy most of the habits you display. A leader is one who sets the right example in line with the ideals and values of the organisation and creates an enabling environment for his people to exhibit the same.

    Any person who cannot get his people to display the right values in his absence cannot be described as a leader.
    • jude thaddeus mbogholi mwaingo
    • director, sengeti enterprises ltd, kenya, east africa
    Control, delegation, or theatre? The three are intrinsically and extrinsically related. It is necesary to distinguish the environment in which one operates, the stage of need, the actors/people involved, the scale of the institution, the culture, the structure, and access to and control of resources.

    This list of factors is not exhaustive but is primal in determining the style of leadership. It is subjective to quantify the role of leadership in the performance outcome of the institution. There are political, financial, social, cultural, legal, scientific, and religious institutions that place varied demands on the supplier and clientele. Both these actors are visible in every situation mentioned.
    The supplier is the leader and the clientele are the followers in a top-down situation--for example, religious.

    In a financial/business situation the clientele are the leaders and the suppliers are the followers. It's all a matter of perspective. The way I see it, leadership consists of the values that the target object/person holds as true in a particular time and space.

    From this brief it can be deduced that the rating of how much leadership contributes to performance is an interplay of control, delegation, and theatre, or an exclusion of one or more of them. In a religious situation, control is dominant but evangilisation demands some theatrics and delegation for maximum follower numbers. Here theatrics and delegation are extrinsically supporting the role of control(intrinsic) in the religion.

    In a political situation the demands of an extreme security risk place the need for a "state of emergency" as is visible in some terrorist situations. The interplay of the three will differ.

    It is paramount for corporate heads to see the values of the clientele as leading the performance of the company. In such a situation, control has a minimal role.

    Let the debate continue.
    • Philip Zawa
    • Director, Baker Robbins & Company
    I'm curious about how an exact sounding number such as 10% is arrived at for such an amorphous and shape-shifting phenomenon as "leadership". Did you study performance of groups with "leaders" vs. ones without "leaders"? I would argue that every group that manages to accomplish anything has a leader but not necessarily an official single individual in that role. Groups where no one provides the raison d'etre, the vision, a means for resolving conflict, etc. usually don't result in much of anything.

    The quality of the implicit leadership, often embodied in more than one individual as the situation dictates, is important for team performance, but I imagine difficult to measure. Or there may be a hierarchy of leadership in large, complex organizations. The "leader" at the top may succeed by creating a environment that allows/facilitates others to lead as required by the situation; this may result in the chimerical "10%".
    • Anonymous
    Having served in various leadership roles, I agree that there is a certain amount of theater involved. From the worker perspective if I look upwards at my company and do not see the leadership/managers who espouse company policies acting in a manner that supports the company's goals or direction, then why should I. As a leader, I feel it is important to support the company goals and it is incumbent on me to set the example (leadership by example) to everyone up and down the company work force.
    • Andrew Vendrasco
    • Consultant, Lawrence Tech University
    As a personal opinion, I believe that leadership can be a bit of a dicey subject. Overall with years of management experience, leadership is simply about guidance. Done right it is not about power, it is a person gaining respect from co-workers, team members and those around by coaching and informing to achieve a common goal. Although not everyone can be led directly, sometimes you may resort to a form of subtle manipulation. (Not advised, but can be effective.) We sometimes take for granted the ability of people to see the truth.
    • Dean Tunrer
    • CAO, Pierce Atwood LLP
    I don't know how you improve on Drucker's distinction between managers and leaders. The former do things right while the latter do the right things. In my nearly 40 years in the military and in business, I have seen that validated time and time again.
    • Suresh Revuru
    • Business Consultant, Intelligroup INC
    A good leader converts his thoughts to actions and not actions to thoughts. He has to learn from all and take his own decision. The user of Theatre, Control and Delegation is required to his vision, values across the organization.
    • Adesina Salawu
    • Director, Matsin Global Consult, Lagos, Nigeria
    It is interesting to see the issue of leadership occupying the front burner once again. A leader to me must be prepared to be understood but believing that in short while the followers will realise and will benefit from his views. He must therefore possess the ability to love others compulsorily irrespective of their faults and inadequacies; must be prepared to help others climb the ladder even at costs but with the eventual belief of causing a change in the life, habit and attitude of followers. Above all a leader must not only be a motivator but must be quick at showering enconium whenever deserved and not be slow to award sanctions to unacceptable conduct.
    • Wale Olawore
    • Student, OOU Ago-Iwoye
    Talks about leadership? I see one who wants to lift me up and help me achieve my desire in life.
    • Ellis Baxter
    • CEO, High Fidelity SSS
    Leadership is about doing a lot of little things right communication with everyone you can reach in the company. Power & Influence come from making the right decisions, however the test of leadership is when it hits the fan and everyone looks at you and you give commands and they are followed because you never gave one for personal reasons, gain or stole anyone's glory. It may be forgotten now but Rudy was in that tower before it came down. And a lot of brave men died and others saved thousands of lives because he leads by example and takes action when necessary he did not take a poll or worry about what the press might say. In every deal someone has to supply the energy.
    • Ann Brown
    • President, LearningAdvance, Vancouver BC Canada
    I am interested in the 10% effect of leadership and how it can be identified.

    Leaders create experiences for people that demonstrate the desired values, behaviours, attitudes and actions. They do this in many ways, some more evident than others. Leaders demonstrate by explicit actions which create stories and legends - helping move the log like George Washington, cleaning up the coffee like Bill Pollard or picking up garbage like Jim Pattison at the Vancouver Expo. They also demonstrate by the business of running an organization such as the policies and projects they approve, people they hire and promote, actions they support and decisions they delegate.

    In the sense that "all the world is a stage" leadership is theatrical and we watch our leaders carefully for the story told by their actions and words. Leaders create messages through their actions intentionally and/or unintentionally. They are observed and interpreted by people who make their choices to be followers, or not.

    So ...back to the 10%.

    How long would it take for the results of consistent leadership actions and "action messages" to show in the bottom line? And, assuming that the impact is positive, how can we tell how much of the external, complex and negative influence has been mitigated by the excellence of the internal story telling?

    I suspect that trying to measure the impact of influence by straight line, cause and effect is not useful. We need a set of measures that indicate behavioural trends in the key areas and which document our assumptions that these behaviours will drive high performance.

    As for the piece about leaders faking it by acting out what they think, we think they should do to create an illusion of control... perhaps it implies that some "followers" have a greater need for comfort than for truth and prefer to play out their role with the illusion that it's not their job to be accountable for the success of the organization.

    A leader who focuses on action messages that respond to this need, instead of supporting those that will step up to share leadership and accountablility for performance in a a little "l" leader indeed! I would suspect tha this kind of "leadership" has much more that a 10% effect on performance overall!

    We will never run out of opinions on leadership as long as we have leaders!
    • Terry Ott
    • Retired Management Consultant
    ".... actions of leaders most often explain no more than 10% of performance. Such things as a company's operating environment, the economy in general, or its long-run success or failure account for more of its current performance."

    This is the kind of statement that seems "fishy" and gets fishier the more you noodle on it. Consider:

    1. Are we to believe that leaders have little to do with shaping the operating environment?

    2. Whether the economy "in general" is favorable or unfavorable, a leader still needs to compete -- which means grow market share, enhance productivity relative to competitors, foster customer loyalty, and so forth; are we to believe that companies' leaders can afford to go on "automatic pilot" when times are good?

    3. "Long run success or failure ..." What IS long run failure, actually? And if the leader is in charge of a company that's done well for a long time, he/she needs to know how to perpetuate that, and not be its undoing.

    Many of my fellow commentators have made great points about this subject already, but I'll amplify one aspect. Research shows that having an engaged workforce is a huge determinant of business success. That same research shows what we know intuitively, i.e., one of the most important determinants of engagement is employees' trust in management, along with their confidence in the values and strategies being pursued (by leadership). If that's not acknowledged and accounted for by Pfeiffer, et. al., their "10% difference" conclusion is worthless.

    Even IF 10% is the right number, that amount of performance difference is HUGE in a competitive environment in almost ANY key part of an organization, to say nothing of ACROSS an entire business entity.

    As for "theatrics", that's a function mostly of the style and personality of the leader, as well as the nature of the enterprise. John Wooden wasn't much for theatrics, but he managed to be legendary in spite of that. Leaders lead in all manners of ways. But the good ones are easy to spot regardless.
    • Manisha-Anand-Kandoi
    • MBA Student, PICT-SITM, Pune
    I completely agree with the author.

    In addition, I realise that a leader is the mirror of the organisation's face. I came across a leader who was a perfect actor but a moderate performer and so was his staff.

    Employees set their standards in accordance with the leader's performance. If the leader is not charismatic, visionary and energetic, then it is impossible to imbibe such qualities in the staff.

    A true leader is less of an actor and more of a performer.
    • Divya-Anand-Kandoi
    • MBA Student, PICT-SITM, Pune
    Management is all about control, delegation and theater.

    An effective leader must be able to convince and get the support of the employees. And to achieve these he should integrate all the above three facets of human nature and use the right one at the right time.

    For example: At the time of crises there has to be more of control whereas in the routine work delegation will be of due importance. Similarly when we need to convince the employees of a certain philosophy of management, it is theatre which will take center stage.
    • Kenneth E. Roberts
    • Writer
    Hi Jim, you have certainly raised some valid questions about the nature of leadership in the global world we now occupy, but I am concerned about the emphasis on control, delegation, theatre and power in some of the answers.

    I have found that the most effective leaders are those who rarely resort to control and the use (or abuse?) of power. Most of the good leaders I have known fall into this category. They provide direction and motivation for immediate subordinates, ensure that this is passed on to all levels in the organisation. They also develop feedback mechanisms that allow comment and criticism from all those tasked with ensuring the organisation moves in the right direction. IThis done, they step back and allow the people who can to get on with the job. This creates a bond of trust between the leader and the led and is, in my view, a prime factor influencing overall performance.

    Some of the most respected leaders I have ever encountered were the Shed Foremen in charge of engine sheds in the old days of steam locomotives. They had usually come through the ranks and could demonstrate a knowledge and expertise about any, and all, of the day-to-day problems of operations. Most were worshipped by the men under their "control" and it would be difficult to find a more diverse range of personalities and leaderships styles.

    Perhaps organisations encounter problems today because of the heavy emphasis on leadership and performance skills, to the apparent exclusion of organisational knowledge, personality and style?

    Ken Roberts
    • Steve Mosley
    • Director, Telecommunications Company
    There are many insightful comments posted and I appreciate them all. I want to amplify on the 10% contribution that leadership represents in performance, as proposed by this article. I agree with Terry Ott in the assertion of the size of that number. If performance, at the end of the day, is measured by profitability, then for my firm that represents $200 million extra profit dollars that leaders contribute outside of control, delegation and pure luck. That is many multiples more than our leadership development budget! Or put another way, if firms that emphasize developing good leadership drive an extra 10% premium in EPS, or a stock price differential of 10% as compared to their peer group, I think most CFOs and CEOs would salute those results.
    • Gordon Johnson
    • Pres/CEO/retired, LogEtronics Inc.
    I suggest it's mostly "none of the above." The leader doesn't "control" the people any more. People have to want to do what they do and need to feel they have freedom to decide what to do. The leader does have to choose what NOT to delegate, like decisions that would bet the company, but delegation per se is not leadership. Good theater can make a difference, and it is certainly true that nothing happens until somebody sells something, but leadership is really all about deciding and getting agreement on WHAT to sell more than actually selling it.

    The most critical element in leadership is establishing the mission of the organization and its parts, and then making sure everyone (1) understands it, (2) agrees on it, and (3) is able to work to achieve it. The bigger the organization, the more important the mission becomes and the simpler it must be in order to be broadly understood.

    The leader then looks for sand in the gears between different groups and asks, "What is the problem?" Once the mission is clear, leadership is identifying and removing the problems that stand in the way of people working to achieve the organization?s mission.

    HBS is a good example with its relatively new mission statement: "Our mission is to train leaders who will make a difference in the world." Getting that mission agreed to, and focused on by all hands, was, and is, real leadership.
    • Charrise McCrorey
    • Founder/Certified Business Coach, Emergence Business Coaching
    Effective leaders invite truth into their business. They face "what is so" with clear intentions to react to that truth with appropriate action, regardless of the pain associated with it. True leaders have established a level of trust with those that they are leading, which results in their staff being willing to walk through fire in order to further the position of the leader, if so required. Phenomenal leaders do what they say they will do, and have the courage to make big commitments to which they are entirely accountable. It's not rocket science.
    • Philip Ejiofor
    • Managing Partner, Bridgewater & Associates
    To assume a position of leadership is to accept or admit perfection and diligence in the discharge of the affairs of men. A strong leader, who must perform either through delegation or theatre has no room for mistakes or failure as he is open to superior knowledge to control events through the expert and professional knowledge of men of wisdom, whom he must seek for the good of society. A Leader is a demi-god, who must show mercy to the less endowed and channel their destinies towards the right path, be they, man, society or business. Leadership is a tough call, not for the feeble hearted but the strong willed who have a clear vision.
    • Margie
    • Lecturer, B K School of Business Management
    The debate missed the point. You are forgetting that if the 'Act' requires putting 'life on the line', 'serious' leaders do that too. Acting is the start-off, and it has got to be highly visible (think of the bottom of the pyramid). If leaders do not do that, why would follow?

    More important is the living up of the role. Mahatma Gandhi led the non-violent freedom movement for India, but he risked his life on so many occasions. Corporate leaders work long, stressful hours and make many sacrifices.

    The 'acts' that stand out of the clutter are the ones that are not phony or hollow. They are lived up to, just like the values in practice.
    • Anuroop
    I begin with the assumption that theatrics is different from the theater.

    Control, delegation and theater are tools. How much of leadership is about using these tools? I would say theater is 100% of the time because I am acting the role of a leader. I was not born tagged as a leader, but I became one because I performed the actions needed by that role well (read Andy Grove's allusion to thinking). When I am playing the role I use tools like Control and Delegation. As there are some real good actors and real bad actors, depending on how close the actor identifies with the role, how well prepared and capable the actor is to play that role; I believe similar thing is with leadership. I need to be capable, be prepared and identify myself with the role of the leader to perform that role.

    Then comes the effetiveness part. Can only 10% of performance be attributed to leadership? I beg to differ. If it weren't for greedy individuals who played their leadership roles with different set of assumptions (being selfish rather than selfless), world would have been a better place to live. Similarly there are many others who we consider as good leaders who did exactly the opposite of what bad leaders did.

    So leadership is playing a role - it is about being the best actor. It is about how closely the individual identifies with the role. Then during acting it is about using various tools at the disposal of the actor depending on the context and the environment. I can't use the same level of control in a public corporation as compared with the US Army or I can't use same level of delegation in US military as compared with a public corporation.
    • aparna
    I think it is a combination of theater, delegation and control. Of course the theater part (whether staged or spontaneous) in most of the better leaders is less as compared to the delegation and control part. Also between delegation and control it depends on a) leader's personality, b) organizational stage, c) culture - as to which factor gets more improtance. A good leader according to my observation is able to navigate between all three aspects well. Here the application of Collin's level five theory (modesty and perspective as you have mentioned in your article) helps the leader to juggle between the disparate worlds of theater, delegation and control ....
    • Deepa S Prabhu
    • Mumbai
    Whether we like it and/or admit it or not, we are more influenced by some books, writers, thought leaders than others. In my case, all the three authors and their books noted in this article, Jim Collins, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton happen to be in my list of favorites, so their observations would hold value for me and I'd be inclined to agree with most of it. Leadership has to be bold and visionary and I'd only add this comment I first heard from a business leader here who I admire and which I have heard echoed from a couple of others in the same genre.

    I suspect the original quote is from M. K. Gandhi, but even if it is not, I believe and in my experience if there was only one quality and characteristic of a leader (a true, successful, effective leader of course), it would have to be that of a "Trustee". One who has and holds the power and the resources he/she has in trust on behalf of all the stakeholders at all times. Everything else, including limited or exaggerated control, delegation or thespianism, is optional.

    Control, delegation and theatrics would then be a result of choices made based on other factors such as role, organization, individual persona, followers and expectations, mandate, time in history, place, culture and so forth.
    • Nitin Bartakke
    • Project Manager, ZenSar
    Control, delegation & theatre can relate to a manager than to a leader. Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders - starting with inspired youth and building energised autonomous leaders at every level. They create opportunities and construct a context where their people can set off on a voyage of discovery of leadership. Leader is NOT the "all-knowing commander and order giver extraordinaire?"

    A leader knows when to leave the scene.
    • Rogers Matama
    • Author and Lecturer, MUBS, Uganda, East Africa
    Although the issue of leadership may call for a soft hand, iron hand as well as acting as in the theater and decieving phrases like "leading from the back" or refered to as "servant leadership".

    Vital issues like the softness and feelings of the subjects or subordinates have persistently been ignored (in fact the feeling in most case are hurt)thus dissolving all the leadership equation into mere exploitation that tantamounts to poor organisational performance, thus, the related occupational hazzards that have resulted into dangerous disease like high blood pressure to both leaders and subordinates.
    • Hemanshu Joshi
    • Team Leader, GIT
    The difference between theatre and control is same as difference between leadership and management. If people perceive the difference between leadership and management, they would distinguish between theatre and control as well.

    Leadership is theatrical. It gives creates vision, gives direction and sets examples. Leadership creates cultures, cultivates values and generates opportunities for all. It may be a leader's vision to have right control with in organization and would advocate for efficient management practices across hierarchy. But, exercising control in everyday work is not leadership.

    Management is a control function. It ensures vision set by leadership actualizes. It creates standards, set processes and monitors them to accomplish the broader goals set by leadership.

    In my personal observation whenever leadership starts focusing more on control, it loses its own definition.
    • Kamal Gupta
    • Director, Delta Petro
    Having worked in top leadership positions for over 10 years now, I would say this - The leader has to have both substance and style. By style I mean an understanding, empathetical personality, who can bring out the best in people. But your subordinates would always be testing you, and therefore you have to deliver, you have to stand by them through thick and thin, you have coach them, and you have to lead by example.

    I would sometimes fly off the handle, but my subordinates always knew that if I pull up a person, I would have his good at heart; I would fly off only because I would think that she/he could do much better than what she/he had done.

    If there was a need for training, that would be provided. The focus would be on problems and opportunities, not on personal traits.
    • Satish Jayaram
    • Principal : IHM-A, Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces
    Ancient Indian scriptures have provided perspectives on the concept of leadership, control and influence. Without verbosely translating from the original in Sanskrit, the essence of it is that co-ordinators are found lacking.

    This lack of co-ordinators and facilitators in world of most individually useful entities requires the role of what we may have established as leadership roles in context. These leaders have the inherent ability and responsibility to both influence and control outcomes. The extent and approaches they may use is open to interpretation.

    As a practicing Indian manager, global citizen and academic leader, I have experienced the inter-related manner in which contrasts hold true. There is control in establishing the pattern in chaos, there is delegation from abstracts like trust and virtue without overtly relying on only competence and of course, the leader's world is a stage indeed. All great leaders have influenced the minds of the people they led by their thoughts, deeds and actions without having considered these to be overtly theatrical. The external persona and behaviour influences followers as much as the mind-maps that the leader asks them to trace.

    From the hotel sector, in a country where hospitality is first nature, this food for thought needs rumination.
    • Anonymous
    This article presumes that leadership is a role, rather than a distinction. "Manager" is not synonymous with "leader".
    • Sita Bhatt
    • PTC, ITL
    In my opinion, leadership is about inspiring - if you can inspire, you can lead.
    • Nisha Malhotra
    • International Admissions
    Leadership essentially in times of change, turmoil, insecurity must be a lot about 'theatre'. Having faced changes in management seven times during my two and a half years of working experience, I have come to believe in the importance of a sense of stability being required in the workplace. And at times, that sense of security in one's own job, both one's and the organizations future, can be created by the leader alone.

    If that is theatre, then I cannot think of what could be better. For without it, employees feel lost, disoriented. Control and delegation will come when the work atmosphere has stabilised. But to begin, any new leader needs to win the support of his/her team by making them feel secure ... and that takes theatre.
    • Vanitha Rangganathan
    • Malaysia
    I'd like to believe that every individual, from all ages, is a thespian in his/her own right. A baby mimics crying out of hunger to get that well-deserved cooing from his parents. A toddler screams his lungs out and convinces his parents that the fancy truck at the toy store may be the last vehicle he'd ever drive. A leader is no different a human being than that baby or that toddler. Different situations may cause the thespian in a leader to appear, creating a facade of confidence and calm even in the most turbulent of times. The problem arises, however, when such a leader overtly depends on these so-called 'acting' skills, whilst forsaking the technical soundness that he needs to fill the seat.

    A leader needs to be transparent even through his 'acting'. His charges must be cognizant that their leader is able to guide them through change and is indeed capable of not only creating change, but managing the potential outcomes of change. Transparency will never exist if the entire organisation is shrouded in myths. Eventually, a leader may wish to be a clever thespian in the public's eyes, but he must remain a pillar of transparent confidence and strong sense of direction within the organisation.
    • Anonymous
    Leaders can only be judged by their followers. They are the decision makers about who will lead and how successful they will be. If the environment is right despots arise, such as Hitler. To improve leadership, we need to study those that follow the leader and the environment in which the followers are immersed.
    • Daniel Kilgore
    • Sales Manager, Johnson Controls Inc
    Leadership to me is the ability of an individual to provide others with a vision and to inspire them to greater levels of performance than they would otherwise not acheive. To that end, I think the obvious answer is as much as necessary.

    I think the best analogy of this is the Situational Leadership Model that Ken Blanchard and his group created that speaks to the Directing, Coaching, Supporting, and Delegating that leaders should use depending upon the audience/individual that they are dealing with.

    Add to that the "Theater", if you will, of the likes of Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Etc who have provided a vision in terms that inspired their followers to BELIEVE! This element of theater is a very important part of leadership, in my book.

    But getting back to the Situational Leadership Styles are applied as is appropriate for the level of competence and committment of the individual. In other words if a worker is new and has little understanding of his/her role or tasks then a more directive ( Controlling) style would be appropriate. While a more competent and committed individual would need less control and more Support and Delegation.

    As a last comment. It is refreshing to see in business these days a greater appreciation for the value in mastering leadership. I think in the highly technical world we live in we miss, some times, the value of improving our leadership abilities and how that contributes to our being a complete manager.
    • Manisha Gupta
    • Technical Leader, Motorola
    Why leaders alone, aren't all of us what we believe ourselves to be? Rather than saying that leadership is about acting, I would say that leadership is about spontaneity. It is about taking the right decisions at the right time, taking tough and quick decisions in crisis, nurturing the talent in the company, having a vision and belief in oneself, and finally it's about 'leading by example'.

    It's like art, the more you get involved and the more you practice, the better you get at it.
    • David Broderick
    • Director, Offshore Delivery, CAI
    The reason Leadership continues to be a hot topic is there are no simple recipes for success. There are many facets to Leadership, and each by itself can be written about and analyzed too much. Sometimes, keeping it simple is better. Therefore, in my experience, I have found that Theater followed by a strong commitment to reward people for following the new direction (delegation), has returned great results.

    The theatrics help to get people motivated to start in a new direction. The incentives (which do not have to be large) help to delegate how to achieve this new direction to all in your organization. Most human beings want to do the right things, but they also want to be recognized for their accomplishments. While I have not always done this well, when I have (or have seen others do this well), I was amazed by how much was accomplished in such a short period of time.

    The sense of modesty you refer to regarding effective Leaders comes from those people who know deep down that while they may have great ideas, they still need followers to help them implement those ideas effectively (most Visionaries are not detail-oriented people). Not coincidentally, that trait can also be found in the same people who would take great care to ensure their people were rewarded for helping them to reach the new goal.

    So, yes, I believe Leaders do have control over performance by using a combination of theater and delegation (through incentives). Ultimately, this allows them to control the outcomes of their organization. Isn't that what Leadership is supposed to do?
    • Hujaj Ali Nawaz Khan
    • Corporate Sales Executive, Telenor
    Leadership is a scientific art which is combination of all these factors. Leadership is a multidimensional concept so one cannot specify it at macro level whereas one could match the three factors with personality and decide how much he/she should control, delegate or [make as] theater.
    • M.S. Sreekumar
    • General Manager (HR), Binani Zinc Limited
    Well, to me, who had been involved in the HR organisation & institution building proces in the first electronics develpment corporation limited, Trivandum, Kerala, India, I can affirmatively state that of LEADERSHIP, 50% is delegation, 25% is control and 25% is theatre. I switched my second career to a zinc smelter, I continued the mission: change, transformation, managing turbulance, chaos, confusion. In the second job, my role was to break the old and build bridges between and across the organisatin.

    Delegaton is the core of humanity; 'true' feeling of functional freedom @ work, creating an environment which is quite conducive to make frequent failures, sharing the experieces with a view that you pick up lessons from each. You also feel 'empowerment' in its true sense on the other side of the coin. Without guidance, the trajectory of a missile fired will deliver the payload to the right destination, at the right time.

    Leadership is all about leading from the front, setting the right 'role model', allowing the ideas, opinions, live with them, understand their chemistry, interact, feel one among the team, etc.

    Delegation really makes the 'feel' of cultural evening this year. The practice of excessive delegaton will throw up new and new challenges, newer opportunities. We are likely to miss the target.

    The 'accusing finger syndrome' is a bane to most enterprises.
    • P. Psingh
    • HoD (Management), PCTE, Ludhiana, India
    Leadership is a dynamically dynamic process as well as a property of a person. He or she executes and shows leadership at all stages. Whether in control, delegation or theater, a leader has to be perfect in all the roles. The leader is supposed to execute all these roles at different stages of the life cycle of organization. When the organization is new, the leader has to execute the control (as a property in the leader) foremost and at the same time he has to shape the process for SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) as an execution of process of leadership.

    When the organization has grown to a certain extent then, the leader has to delegate some work (as explanation of the part of property of meaning of leadership) and instructions as the need may be. At the same time the process of leadership demands from him to introduce in SOPs a component which will allow him to delegate the responsibilities and, at the same time, control should be of such standards in SOPs that he or she should have access to all the information which is necessary for the leader to have. Theater persons are good communicators and deliverers of their acts. And certainly during the entire journey of the organization, a leader has to be a good executor and communicator, which demands from him a good theatrical personality. So, dynamism of the dynamic roles and properties of a leader is necessary.
    • Stephen J. Fister
    • adjunct professor, HACC
    The 92 comments posted so far would make one of the best balanced books on leadership ever published.

    With over 40 years in sales and corporate management I have read many leadership books, taken classes, attended seminars, and I have come to the conclusion that one shoe does not fit all.

    When we find ourselves in a leadership position, we must find the style that best fits the situation. It will not always be the same. Each leader has his own parameters from which he operates. Are they all the same, no. Some stand in the front, some say follow me and others lead from behind.

    Thanks for the great forum. We can learn much from each other's experiences.
    • Dennis R. Dunklee, Ph.D
    • Assoc. Professor, Education Leadership, George Mason University, Graduate School of Education
    Let's, for the sake of this discussion, take the "theater" and "theatrics" out of our thoughts and change that factor to simply "actor." With that in mind, let's not forget the value of the "aggregate impression" that an effective leader must generate to be considered authentic. Just as the theatrical actor is both limited and empowered by actions, so too the effective leader can only express by action. A leader's language is a language of movement, of gesture, of voice, of the creation and projection of character.

    An effective leader doesn't need to be a professional actor, but the ability to assume different roles while maintaining integrity, and to shift from role to role smoothly, creates a powerful foundation for developing and maintaining an "aggregate impression" as a leader.

    Effective leaders assume a different role each time they modify their behavior to achieve some desired goal, get someone to do something, persuade someone of something, win trust or respect. Since each situation has its own character demands, effective leaders, then, are by definition skilled actors. It's not theater, it's not theatrics, it's impression management, aka "acting."
    • Fidel Davila, MD
    • Founder/CEO, objectHEALTH
    First and foremost, leadership is NOT management. Control is not management either. Control, delegation and theater are about removing barriers that keep workers from optimally advancing the organization.

    A leader's primary role is to remove the universal fear of the future barrier to advancing the organization. Thus, a leader defines the organization's future through a vision and this vision allows workers to concentrate on the present free of their performance--diminishing fear of the future.

    Ironically, the leader's vision of the future does not have to be right. She must just rid or diminish their fear of the future to allow full or fuller engagement of her workers at each point in her leadership.

    So, leadership is about control, delegation AND theater. Whatever it takes at that time to advance her vision of the organization is leadership.
    • Anonymous
    I would be curious to hear from those more expert than myself on this topic; however, I am under the impression that the use of theatrics is self-promotional rather than useful for an organization. The ability to articulate a vision or cogently argue a point should not be confused with theatrics.
    • Ted Ruddock
    • Managing Partner, C-Cuite Partners, LLC
    The only thing that any leader --- like anyone of us --- controls is what they think, say and do. While many leaders think they control a great deal, it's fantasy. They don't control markets, competitors or people. What they can DO is influence all those things, which as we all know, is an entirely different matter, and is at the heart of this topic.

    Successful leaders are those that truly understand what they control and use that to create the results they want to create. What did Patton, Bratton et al control? What they said and did. They created a little theatre to communicate their passion and conviction, but in the end, if what they said and did wasn't authentic, the people they were communicating with (attempting to influence) would have rejected "their leadership." But acting can be very dangerous for leaders --- unless they are acting authentically (which some may suggest is not acting at all).

    There are plenty of examples of leaders who attempt to control their organizations and people and achieve short run results --- which given the short-term tenure of many CEOs today, may seem like a good approach. But most people are smarter than many leaders acknowledge. In the longer run, the inauthentic leaders are uncloaked, and either their people abandon them (quit / go elsewhere) or they are dismissed by whoever has granted them the mantle of high position (board of directors / electorate / etc. )

    In the end, the best approach for leaders is to understand what they truly control --- what they think, say and do --- and consistently act authentically regardless of the pressures of current circumstances or other "well intended advice" from others.
    • James R. Schweikert
    • Director of Procurement, LSG Sky Chefs
    The most moving book I've ever read is a book called "WALK THE TALK". What ever happened to leading by example. In today's environment where the President of the U.S. much less the President of a major corporation can do whatever they choose, what kind of leadership can we expect to have? When the CEO's are making exorbitant salaries and don't even have to perform for it, why should anyone lead? Great leaders manage great people and today too many of our leaders are so incompetent that they are afraid to hire people that know what they are doing, so they promote people to their level of incompetence.

    Those that do happen upon competent people don't know how to approve their work because they don't understand the work themselves. Once we instill ethics and morals back into the corporate environment we will start seeing the emergence of true leaders. Leaders that know how to hire and manage competent people, leaders that work for
    the good of the entire corporation and not just their pocketbook, leaders that employees can be proud of and emulate. And corporations that take responsibility for improving their products, employees, and their environment.
    • James Celentano
    • President, Hudson Gain Corporation
    Our firm provides leadership acquisition and leadership development solutions to organzations of all shapes and sizes. The aspect of leadership that some mistake for theater or charisma, is better described as an ability to use truthful symbolizm to help help others see some future state. That future state, well that's vision. So there you have it, we've defined leadership and vision . . . and reminded you that using symbols is not about being excentric, and it's not about being deceptive. You know from Kouzes and Posner's research that honesty is the #1 characteristic that makes people follow a leader. Vision is the place a leader sees in the future, symbols enable the leader to get others to see that place, but it must be honest otherwise people won't follow that leader again.
    • J.D. Bailey
    Mission Definition, Performance, and Success prove a person has leadership [Strategic: Abraham Lincoln, FDR, GCM, USG ... and Tactical: SWJ, GCP, SNS...]. IOW: Leadership is a Positive Quality of Character and all the money, education, titles, profession, birthright ... will never grant leadership to anyone. I ain't saying leadership is genetic, there is to much evidence to the contrary. I am saying; selecting/electing someone to be a leader based on personal theater, marketing, and/or dogma is reactionary and devoid of the basic human character of logic, thought, reason ....

    Leadership for me is not the ability to control/direct or preach a specific marketing/vision dogma. Top-heavy screw-up or do nothing management is a big unnecessary waste. CEO/CFO/CIO/COO/CTO/BSO... excuse-management and spin-failure needs to end.

    Venture Architect: A nexus professional with (1) extensive understanding of "Venture Charter" [AKA: mission/project] funding and requirements (in science, research, development, technology, engineering, and/or ...). (2) germane inclusive practical application experience. (3) strong venture/mission community collaboration skills. (4) the ability to [a] detect obscured implicit knowledge, [b] design atypical synergistic relationships/processes, and [c] define manageable mission complexity components and delegate to a specific venture collaborative community. (5) verifiable and vetted gainful consensus decision performance leading to mission success.

    Each business and program VA should have their own VA Resources Officers (while the "Venture Charter" exist): Business Manager (BRM), Financial Manager (FRM), Human Resources Managers (HRM).

    Pay and benefits based on mission definition (can or cannot), performance (did or did not), and success (is or is not): So, success "NOT" you are fired, but definition/performance not could be a major cost savings victory.

    As I always say, "reality is self-induced hallucination." IOW: What are the proof/facts (is or is not)!
    • Teresa Martin
    • CEO, Cape Cod Technology Council, Inc
    Several posters have accurately observed that leadership and management are not the same, although a balance of both are critical to an organization.

    Leadership is about developing and communicating where we are and where we are going - what might be called 'theatre' is by definition part of that.

    Communication - in speech, words, action, tone, demonstration, dramatization, role modeling ... communication in all of its many forms is the most aspect critical of leadership. It is the combination of saying, showing, and being that makes your organization not only believe but also internalize why you are all here. It is the whole set of skills and techniques that create the glowing light at the start of the parade. And it is the spirit and energy that can carry an organization past the bumps.

    (Sorry for the parade analogy; I'm sure there is a better one but as I type on the fly here it isn't coming to me!)

    Visionaries can be leaders ... but leaders need to incorporate either management skills or skilled managers within the parade. I'd describe a visionary as a leader who doesn't understand the balance of the two. Whether those skills are delegated or are part of the leader is irrelevant; what matters is that the leader knows they are part of the parade and makes sure they are present.

    I would actually argue that delegating management is often a good thing and enables an effective tag team approach ... it also keeps on able to focus on the message without getting lost in the details.

    Management is the set of skills that lets the parade assemble, that makes sure everyone can find a comfortable and effective place while following the torch. It is knowing how to execute on the elements articulated through the leadership direction.

    Management alone is not enough. You've got to be marching TO somewhere, not just effectively keeping time. One might think one can do without leadership as long as effective management is in place, but eventually management without leadership plateaus, spiritual exhaustion sets in, and the organization begins to hit the wall.

    I do know that one can learn good management skills. I'm not so sure one can learn good leadership - I mean, there are external techniques and theories, but there has to be a internal spark and all the coaching in the world can't create it unless it already burns within - that's part of the authenticity that people follow within the most effective leaders. That's the honesty that can't be manufactured.
    • Perry Miles
    • Principal, Mountjoy Miles Assoc.
    I'm not sure I'd ever advise anyone to become a thespian in a leadership situation, but I have advised managers going into difficult situations to "play it like a Christian holding four aces." That is, act as if you believed you had both this pot AND everlasting life locked up.

    All leadership situations call for self-assurance -- you cannot lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse -- and some situations may call for theatrics as displayed in the movie about Patton. The problem with leaning heavily on theatrics is that a lot of followers (and other observers, like financial analysts) will start to see behind the curtain.

    Properly used, theatrics is like a spice -- a little can enhance a good dish. Too much ruins it.
    • Gregg Lederman
    • Founder, Brand Integrity, Inc. and Author of Achieve Brand Integrity, Brand Integrity, Inc.
    All employees define a company's performance. Therefore, leadership control should be to clearly identify and show employees the right behaviors to do to execute the business's objectives successfully. If leaders provided this roadmap and role model behavior more consistently, they could limit the perceived fakeness of internal "theatre" to truly help everyone in the organization create and deliver real "staged" experiences that delight customers, partners, shareholders, colleagues, etc.

    From my experience working with top companies, the type of environment that comes from this clarity, accountability and delegation at all levels also enables organizations to share best practices, make decisions and respond to changing market dynamics faster and more effectively to significantly improve performance.
    • Khurt Williams
    • Senior Security Analyst, Bristol-Myers Squibb
    I think commenter #98, Ted Ruddock, said it best:
    "Successful leaders are those that truly understand what they control and use that to create the results they want to create."

    And number #9, Mike Sowers:
    "...true leadership is the ability to inspire individuals to rise above themselves and perform at levels they would normally not reach."
    • John Koh
    • IFC
    In my opinion, Joseph Badaracco does an excellent job of addressing this question in his relatively recent book "Questions of Character." The question itself touches on aspects of personal character and raises further questions about ethics and business.

    Before we answer the question, I believe it is important to properly frame the question in its appropriate context (human nature, morality). As with many other behavioral components, I believe "theatrics" can be placed within a spectrum of behaviors. To one extreme of the spectrum, we see the negative theatrical antics and its devastating results from individuals like Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, and on the opposite end of the spectrum we may see struggling executives who just can't effectively lead their company possibly due to a lack of their theatrical abilities to inspire their employees.

    If we look at effective leaders, I believe we will discover that it does not become an "either ... or" discussion but a "both ... and" discussion of traits that effective leaders possess. To add to this, I believe it is important for the leader to manage his/her success properly otherwise the flow of success may unravel his/her character which I believe is the foundation and heart of effective leadership.
    • Bramantyo
    • Creative Director, Maksimedia
    Sometimes, i'm a teacher teaching them what i know. Sometimes, i'm the boss telling them what to do.
    Sometimes, i'm the colleague working along with them.
    But most of the time, i'm trying to be a good friend listening to their aspiration, fear, needs, problems and stories, as i also share them mine.

    Yes, there's a set of role i can play and so many times i have to (white) lie by pretending i'm not afraid, always sure with my decision, not depressed by the tension, never tired, and so on. At the end, the roles i play every day shape me to become what i am today. Is it a good person? I hope so... only my friends and my wife can tell. What i know is now we're good friends working side by side to achieve a common goal: better performance & better prosperity.
    • dale kinney
    • operations, bayer cropscience
    I think the percentage of positive performance in any given business attributed to "leadership" depends on how leadership is defined in the organization. Poor definition of who is actually a "leader" will lead to a small percentage of success credited to that leadership. A well defined organization that manages from well designed policy and a clear but dynamic business objective will normally have a leadership heirarchy working in concert.

    All levels of leadership have a vision of the common business objective and their focus is on managing and driving their particular area of responsibility. The leader or process owner of the entire organization must have 360 degree vision in order to not only to support all business processes according to policy and objectives but to also have an eye on the future to ensure the sustainability and development of the business. This leader and their actions and activity should be fairly visible to successive levels of leadership with unfettered communication both ways.

    "Figurehead" leadership based on some type of attrition or tenure with no verifiable performance measurement will lead to inefficiency and ill-realized performance of the business overall. If leadership has begun with a single person driving an expanding cooperation resulting in a well designed business then a greater percentage of success can be attributed to that leader. If a seemingly well performing business has poor design and a "figurehead" type of leader, a greater percentage of success must be attributed to other levels of the workforce and factors that business' market depends on.
    • Denise Balog
    • Analyst, City of Clearwater
    Leadership is an art consisting of honesty, truth, respect, and integrity as well as education, knowledge, and experience. The best leaders I've worked for lead by all of these characteristics and lived by them. They empowered and inspired the managers to improve performance, made decisions, and moved the company forward. With that said, I believe there is a way to measure leadership performance.
    • Joe Schmid
    • Managing Principal, Oak Leaf Consulting, LLC
    I don't agree with Pfeffer and Sutton's premise presented.

    LEADERSHIP does drive performance. Always has and always will. I just observed a "David" vanquish three industry Goliaths in a head-to-head contract competition. Leadership for that task did not come from the CEO. It came from a person on the team believing they could win, helping get the other team members to get their arms around the notion, laying out a pathway of order to get there, and continually auditing against where they were and staying on track. That person wasn't even the "team leader." They just were the one who provided the four basic legs of leading.

    In large companies, a CEO's role is no longer what we would picture it to be -- it's impossible. What the CEO role has become is a leader of leaders.

    Leadership is very much alive and well; and it drives 100% of organizational performance, but it's not where we would traditionally think of it. To be a high performance organization, leadership has to be nurtured throughout by those in charge -- the leaders of leaders. The top structural leaders can't get it done because of the speed of competitive change -- their job is to teach and grow it on the front lines.

    Theater is in the eye of the beholder. If you are one who is engaged in the struggle to compete that constantly rips at your perseverance, it's not perceived as theater at all. If you're on the sidelines, sitting up in the safety of the bleachers, then the cynic in all of use takes over our perceptions and what in the first instance is inspiring becomes "theater" to those who are not engaged.
    • Santhanam Krishnan
    • Director & Chief Course Architect, National School of Banking
    In my view the whole of leadership is like being in command of a family theatre. The 'performing artists' require measured amounts of control and monitoring the delegated responsibilities apart from being "cordinately directed". Let's face it - even the best of dramas at a theatre has many heros - yet the effective performance requires wholehearted "direction". There is hardly any performance without an orchestrated direction and task achievement. I don't think we have achieved a level self-supervision mastery even in this advanced technological era and so long as this status continues, the whole of leadership will be an optimal mixture of control, delegation as well monitoring the coordinated performance.
    • Ravi Parimi
    • Cisco
    I think in today's complex world we all live in, the concept of leadership has to evolve from a traditional view of having a vision and aligning people with that vision (top-down), to taking on "adaptive" challenges by everyone at all levels of the organization (collaborative leadership). So, I think true leadership is one that creates and nurtures a "leadership culture" in the organization. Delegation, control or theatre are necessary if the situation demands them.
    • Phil Jackson
    • Partner, Jackson Coaching
    Resisting the temptation to write a book on leadership, I would like to make two comments, one on the impact of leadership and the other on the subject of theatre.

    Firstly, I find it inconceivable that the behaviour of a leader has no impact on the performance of a business. However it is conceivable how it may be perceived this way. My view is that there is much poor leadership in the world and much of it exists in companies whose founding leadership that created the organisation has expired and whose organisational mass and brand strength create such huge momentum that the organisation survives and evolves in spite of itself and its leaders. Under ineffective leadership such companies move with the environment, and if they don't move fast enough gradually wither, merge or disband. Statistically the number of leaders who are inneffective appears to greatly outnumber those who are, so I can see how a study into the impact of leadership would lead to such a conclusion. My point is that it's not leadership that has no impact, it's bad leaders.

    Leadership when it is delivered as great leaders deliver it is simply transformational.

    This brings me to theatre. Leadership theatre seems only to be defined as 'theatre' by those who don't do it. For those leaders that do, it's not theatre and it's not an act, it is merely a genuine portrayal of what lies within, the values and beliefs that makes great leaders great, demonstrated and commincated convincingly and with passion. Anything other than a genuine portrayal is rightly labelled as theatre - such presentations are likely to be as ineffective as the leader; all that glitters....
    • Meenalochani
    • Associate, Mindtree
    Leadership and theatre - we can draw a parallel and see stark differences too. Leadership is about influence, potrayal of consistent and powerful values, and a display of impeccable moral strength.

    It is also about walking with the team and ahead of the team when the need arises. A leader most often displays energy and passion in his thoughts and actions. Here we see a similarity when it comes to theatre. An actor represents energy and passion as well in his role. Leadership is enacting in real life and theatre is enaction of a real life situation.

    Both theatre and leadership need direction, control and charge. Both require immense commitment and an end objective, and the commonality is a successful performance on or off stage.
    • Sat Ganesha S Khalsa
    Why are we looking at "the Leader" for "Results? in our organizations? I believe that our involvement in any organization is because we want that organization to succeed. Success depends on many factors and can be defined in many way; much of which we have discussed, debated and dialoged -- it's all good.

    Yet, the missing link and perhaps the core question(s):

    1) Why do we put the weight of "results" on "the Leader"?
    2) How many of the people working for that organization feel/view themselves as "a Leader" and responsible for "the Results"?
    • Larry Wagner
    The best leaders I have studied seem to know of several truths. A good leader focuses on building the individuals in their team -- providing them growth in skills and opportunities. The best leaders have the respect of those teams, and are assured of their support when the step forward and take a stronger role in a time of crisis. And the "theater" role cannot be discarded -- I remember Moses in The Tem Commandments being directed to stand where everyone could see him as they crossed through the parting sea.
    • Gary Johnson
    • President, Gap Solutions
    Jim Collins hit the value leadership brings to any organization on the head in his book Good To Great. Collins shared that he did not intend his book to be another book on Leadership and yet the common link to the companies, either good or great, was their leadership. The leaders of the good companies represented seemed more concerned with personal success where the great leaders understood their success was the result of helping their employees succeed.

    Teams are abundant yet there are few highly effective teams. A highly effective team always has a leader but leadership shifts as individual strengths arise to support the project and achieve the common goal. Yes, leadership is critical to an organization's success as they set the course and surround themselves with a team of talented, committed individuals who require being engaged and empowered to perform.

    Theater is about acting. A leader who truly fits the great leader model does not act, it is who they are so when they get excited employees are motivated and when they must manage through a crisis they do so considering the impact on all stakeholders. Their performance is consistent -- not robotic, rather driven from a caring heart for those they lead. That is what gets successful results consistently.
    • Ahmed Y ISSA
    • GM-KEY Accounts, Aujan Industries Co
    I believe leadership is about being genuine; you cannot bluff or imitate, people can feel and sense. It is about matching your actions and what you preach. People will believe your actions more than what you say. Leadership is about credibility you have to build. Every leader does not have the authority to control or act but you have to have a common cause to make your followers take responsibility. The true control measure should be the bottom line result to compare how well you are achieving your goals and objectives as a leader.
    • Zorba Manolopoulos
    • Strategic Planning, Intel Corporation
    A leader has confidence. Confidence in the idea or direction needs to be displayed to those he/she leads. More importantly, those who follow must have confidence in those who lead.

    These items together will drive performance of the task/project/company.

    Leaders need to be able to tell a good story, a true story, but still a good story. Leaders shouldn't use theatrics to smoke screen or hide unfavorable attributes. Leaders need to also know when to stop leading in a certain direction.

    Don't get caught in the act, the leader will then lose the confidence of the followers. Maybe the 10% number is true, but the effect of a poor leader is greater.
    • Al Brockway
    • President, The Decision Enabler
    We loosely use the term 'leader' for almost anyone at the head of a group, organization or team, more as a job title than a true description. True leadership is best exemplified by those individuals who can get people to follow a vision, plan or action--without necessarily having the authority to compel them. It's the ability to know when, and how to apply a given style--theater, delegation, control, visioning etc. for the given situation. The most effective leaders throughout history have been multi-dimensional characters, able to adapt their style to the moment.
    • Joab Owuor Mak'Ongul
    • Technical and Projects Manager
    Leaders should be able to inspire and motivate others, including themselves and subordinates (followers/ supporters) to believe in themselves and perform roles that will impact positively and bring some, if not all, desired results.

    Inspiring others may come in the form of creating impressions that fit expectation(s) - being a thespian based on what the leader expects. I am thinking of an example where a leader may act (either as a choice or probably s/he does not have a solution or the problem) by asking probing questions that will make the subordinate take responsibility by engaging their minds into thinking beyond the prevailing issues and/or resolutions.

    The 'actor' leader will have inspired the subordinate to come up with better and in most cases innovative ideas to resolve issues which eventually lead to better products or service deliveries.

    Despite being an actor depending on circumstances to achieve certain expectations, I do think that leader in any category (especially technical leaders) must be able to perform and lead from the front when challenged to take up the role.
    • Aslam Murad
    • Head of Accounting & Financial Services, Roche Pakistan Limited
    We are confusing leadership with management. Not all the people on top are leaders. There is nothing successful or unsuccessful, true or false in leadership. Either one has leadership abilities or doesn't. Either one is a leader or not.

    I agree with commenter # 97, Ted Ruddock, with some modifications. The only thing that any leader controls is what they think (and believe), say and do. And they do what they say and they say what they think (and believe). Leaders (only successful person is a leader) are those that truly understand what they control and use that to create the result they want.

    And also with # 9, Mike Sowers. Leadership (no true or false) is the ability to inspire individuals and teams to rise above themselves and perform at a level they would normally not reach.

    With their ability to inspire people, leaders motivate them and get their confidence and trust; that's what they control and they use that control to make them perform above a normal level.
    • David Physick
    • Principal Consultant, Glowinkowski International
    Kurt Lewin, a founding father of Organisational Psychology, remarked that Behaviour is a function of your Personality (we talk of Predispositions and Motivations in our business) and the Situation you're in, i.e. play a one-trick game and you won't achieve success as a leader in the numerous contextual circumstances you encounter. You therefore have to "act", to present or deploy a different set of behaviours according to the situation. The more you know about yourself, the better chance you have of consciously developing the wide array of behavioural competencies you need to draw upon to lead effectively. It is through deploying those appropriate behaviours that you create the climate in which people motivate themselves, which is Herzberg's cornerstone thesis. And does it work? In client portfolio it has delivered success from global conglomerates to an order of nuns (who are leaders in the toughest of environments -- inner city schools).
    • Mennen Aracid
    • Faculty, Ateneo Graduate School of Business
    At operational level, leadership is both control and empowerment.

    Good leaders are in control of the way the outcomes are delivered. And yet, they leave enough leeway for their subordinates to exercise discretion.

    Good leaders empower and develop their people so that they can deliver the job well.

    On communicating strategy and the grand organizational road map, there is a bit of theater involved. A great leader is one who can create excitement when he communicates and sells the vision to his team.

    A great leader is also authentic when relating and motivating his team. When things are tough and deadlines near, the leader's care and concern are very crucial.

    Call it control, delegation, and theater. You need all three to to take care of both the task and relationship competencies required of outstanding leaders!
    • Balaji Sreecharan
    • Senior Consultant, Capgemini Consulting India
    Leadership is about:
    - Setting a direction to the larger team into the future,
    - the ability to gain confidence of the larger team in the proposed direction,
    - the ability to understand the micro and macro level dependencies in the path to meet the end,
    - being one with the team, with a clear distinction of roles and priorities.
    • Prof. K. Prabhakar
    • Director, KSR College of Technology
    An excellent topic that made me to think. The key issue is: is leadership a function of control, delegation or theater? In my opinion this is oversimplification. I may be arrogant to say that in an attention deficit economy like ours we tend to oversimplify things to obtain easy solutions. Leadership is "invisible", but can be felt by all. Let us take the example of Singapore -- you can feel the effect of political leadership in every part of the country. No one talks about leaders; however, leadership is felt in efficiency, discipline and friendliness towards others.

    This can happen with theater, delegation, self control, ethics, values, love towards country and a large number of factors. When we talk of performance, how do we define performance, short term, long term or how we measure the effects of any leadership? If we break the society for our study as economy (which addresses the issues of wants and satisfaction), polity (which plays a mediating role of who has to get what) and culture (the traditions and continuity of past), in my opinion leadership provides a unifying dimension of these three dimensions of society. Many times the leadership is taken by religion which will ensure that all the other dimensions are in harmony with each other, that is economy, polity and culture. If some clarification is provided on leadership by person, or persons or by institutions, such a religion with respect to performance will benefit us.
    • Daniel T C Lee
    • Director - Finance & Operations, Family Office Trust Pte. Ltd.
    Leadership is about control, delegation and theater -- and more. Control, delegation and theater are not mutually exclusive, or a single formula to be executed in perpetuity. A balance of these factors at the right times with the right audience is required to take organizations to the next platform of performance.

    Control and delegation are always important, but theater is necessary at times to enhance the control and delegation processes.

    Measurements of successes today are short term focus. In the past twenty years, organizational structures and senior management have changed too frequently, thus introducing other critical variables in the success equation, timing and audience. Organizations have moved from entrepreneurial business owners to corporate listings and more recently towards privatization via funds. The owners have moved from being the leaders that drive organizations to one responding to stakeholders. Pressure from shareholders has led to focus on short term performance gains and visibility rather than foundations. Theater is obviously critical for survival.

    Motorola was the leader in telecommunication technology. Under the founder-leadership of Galvin, the organization needed no introduction in the 1980s and the 90s. Delegation was important. No one person would be familiar with all the variables necessary to take the organization into the next era, in the technology and globalization race. Control was also important. Decisions have to be made and very often quickly. "It is always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission." Motorola was the epitome of empowerment.

    The Asia Pacific Service operations made its debut in Singapore in 1993. Moving from a technologically-focused organization to a business-oriented organization was a challenge. I was recruited to establish this operation. Facing many long timers and a purely engineering culture, the right mix of theater was necessary to ensure that the operations did not become stillborn. You have to manage the internal operations with minimal theatre and much control as well as delegation across areas where there is comparative expertise, yet develop visibility in areas that matter to the skeptics and other cynical threats. The interests of the diverse stakeholders are not always the same.

    Theatre is important to communicate that enough attention is being paid to these diverse interest of the diverse parties. I had to convey ideas as though they originated from the various key parties to gain support for the wider strategy that led to the service success and overall success of the organization. Theatre in this instance was necessary to develop control. It took a while before the strategy of "customer service as a competitive advantage" became accepted by the "technology leader" globally, an accomplishment considering the cultural entrenchment of pure technological leadership being challenged by a business-based strategy initiated from a little red dot halfway across the world.

    Theatre is also necessary to divert attention of targeted parties from areas of weakness or development. However, too much theatre to the wrong audience can result to the detriment of the organization. The result of too much theatre internally will lead to wrong controls, wrong delegation and competency problems. Unnecessary resources will be spent also trying to sieve out the wheat from the chaff. The problems may not surface immediately, but very much later, perhaps after such theatrical managers have been promoted. In such instance, the theatrical "leader" gets reaffirmation that he has been indispensable, while his immediate successor becomes the fall guy. Needless to say, it is always the victor who writes the history.

    Having worked in different countries and organizations with diverse cultures, the balance of control, delegation and theatre and the expectations all differ. How much of leadership is about control, delegation or theater? The answer depends on who wants to know - how, what, when and where this question is asked.
    • Meenalochani
    • Mindtree Consulting Limited
    Leadership is a combination of influence, assertion and a ruthless display of values. Many aspects of powerful potrayal of character can bear some semblance to theatre though the leader in no way dramatizes situations. The leader does leave with us a distinct memory of a particular leadership style similar to that of a strong character on stage. There the difference ends. Leadership is real, flesh and blood and unrehearsed. Leadership is a balance of control and delegation.