30 janvier 2011

What is leadership these days ? (click here to access USA Today)

Discussing with students at HEC Paris some weeks ago about leadership and how it evolves over time these days, I thought that being a leader is becoming more and more difficult. First, being a leader means that you have around you followers, meaning people ready to follow you. To make this happen you need that than being just a good speaker delivering what could be seen as a vision. You need to be inspirational. And even more important finally, a transformational leader. You need to show how you can challenge the status quo by creating new ideas, a totally new paradigm. Doing so, people can enter in your world being convinced by your purpose, by the dream you are pursuing. People will generally not following you because you have a vision or because you can build a strategy and tactics. A lot of men and women can do that. People will follow you if they believe in what you believe. If they can be inspired by you, not by the goals, but by the purpose of your action, then they will be with you 100%. They will fight for you, work without questioning their choice if they receive more money from a competitor. They will just wake up in the morning being happy working for you and your company. This is difficult to describe what leadership means exactly. We can go through theories and conceptual works to do so. But at the end leadership is something that very few people can develop. I do not believe this is something you have with you or not when your born. In your genes ... no, I believe leadership can be learned. But I think that some people are more ability to develop this talent, like some others will learn piano or guitar quite easily. Certain situations are generating leaders. September 11 was a special event. The president Bush was one of the people who take the lead at this very special time. Bad times, but exceptional ones. I will remember all my life. I was there. I do remember how many hours we spent in front of the TV looking at all information, and listening key leaders, Bush first. I have not been frankly speaking very impressed by him afterwards but at this time, facing this unbelievable and horrible event, he did fantastic. I am French, but I felt at this time as an american. I put flags in front of my house, on my cars. Nobody asked me to do so, but I did. I did it without any hesitation. And usually this is not the way I like to behave. But we have to admit that it was a very special period of time requiring indeed a very special leadership. I was in the United States from 2000 to 2003, in NewYork area. About 10 years later, I can say that this horrible terrorist attack changed the way I saw the world. Everything was different after it. Even in America where nobody thought that the US could be vulnerable in his own territory. USA Today published in 2001 a case study that is quite interesting on the subject. You will find a lot of interesting ideas about what is leadership today, examples and case studies that are still valid today. 
A case study on leadership
Here is the link to access to the case study :