Leadership, whether within a treatment program or within a professional setting, requires both a vision and a followership that’s attached to that vision before anything resembling leadership can emerge. To illustrate, I’ll call upon my old friend Aesop and his fable entitled, “The Traveler and his Dog.”
A traveler was about to start a journey and said to his dog (who was stretching himself and yawning by the door), “Come, what are you yawning for? Hurry up and get ready; I want you to come with me!”
But the dog merely wagged his tail and said quietly, “I’m ready, Master. It’s you who I am waiting for.”
This fable sums up my idea that people who fill “leadership roles” believe that the authority within the role is sufficient to get results. For example, I know several therapists who believe that their training and experience is more than enough to help their clients. It’s as if they alone can bring positive outcome, simply through their words. But to me, it’s up to the therapists and client to co-create the vision to which they can both attach. In doing so, that all important “buy-in” emerges.
Most of the time, we tend to forget that leadership and management are different, yet co-existing, realities that are required within any given setting. By my definition, leadership is the contextually appropriate, social distribution of power. How does this definition work with the ideas of vision, followership, and management? Well, at the beginning of any initiative, it’s up to the leader and follower to co-define the vision and the steps needed to achieve said vision. The context that exists at the beginning of any initiative is usually one that contains more questions than answers and it’s up to all members of the context to share in the responsibility for the initiative’s success. Once the vision and steps are co-created, then it’s up to a manager to monitor progress towards the vision.
Yet, leaders who insist on a “my way or the highway” approach tend to yield far less successful results, as no single person has all the answers to any set of questions. But, like Aesop’s traveler, leaders who believe themselves to be the single source of power tend to assume that their followers know what’s expected without ever having had those expectations communicated.
I call upon everyone to understand that leadership isn’t about control or about power. It’s about results that are achieve WITH people, not in spite of them. If you want confused followers, then be like Aesop’s traveler and make assumptions that are based upon your own projections of how things “should be” and not as they are. I can safely say that if you haven’t shared in the visioning with those you lead, you probably won’t see successful results. That is, there won’t be any leadership.