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What is Leadership? (Frohman Day 2)

From: Dov Frohman To: Shmuel Rosner Re: Leadership Shmuel Shalom, Your questions definitely strike at the essence of the book. Since I do not consider myself a leadership guru, I will answer them based on my personal leadership perspective. Your … Read More

By / March 10, 2008

From: Dov Frohman

To: Shmuel Rosner

Re: Leadership

Shmuel Shalom,

Your questions definitely strike at the essence of the book. Since I do not consider myself a leadership guru, I will answer them based on my personal leadership perspective.

Your questions and dilemmas are a strong indication as to why leadership has to be performed the hard way and why it cannot be taught. You can learn it only by doing it, it is counterintuitive and tested only in a crisis. Confronting a crisis is very personal and you will in most cases forget what you were taught and rely on what you have learned from your past experience i.e. intuition. Let me start by pointing out that in my opinion Ehud Olmert is not a leader. He does not meet any of the attributes of a leader as reflected (but not listed) in the book. I will mention some of them without elaboration since they are obvious; integrity, driving change against the current, turning crisis into opportunity, people skills. He thinks peace talks are his lifeline, but he does not have the capability of driving a solution against the current (he did not have it before the Lebanon fiasco) or the coalition support to execute it. As a result let me answer your question by stating how a real leader would act and behave in a situation like this. I believe that a leader who fails and does not take responsibility looses public support and the authority to act in the next crisis and becomes a lame duck leader. It is an integrity issue, he needs to resign and run again if he believes the nation cannot do without him or wait for people to go to the streets and ask him to stay… or else resign and run again like Rabin did. I agree with you that "differentiating between the 'grandiose' and the 'talent,' between the 'personal' and the 'organizational' is a very tricky business," but I believe it can and should be done. The difference between grandiosity and talent is mainly in believing in the possibility of being wrong. Personal survival equates to not being accountable for failures, and pursuing a personal agenda. This is a major integrity and organization survival issue, because if you have "survived" once you will try to do it again. Every office holder has the human instinct of staying in office as long as possible. Real leaders differentiate between their wish to pursue a personal survival agenda and the organization’s long term interest and success (see addendum below). While successful leadership may only be seen "in hindsight," leaders must take risks without knowing in advance what the outcome will be (it's easy to judge in retrospect) and be accountable when they fail. As to your comment that "what you say may apply to a rare (and possibly extinct) type of leaders" — I agree that they are rare today and this is probably why the world is in such sad shape. So if they are indeed extinct it may be time to reincarnate them!

And now to your summary question: Yes, it is definitely more important to make the leader accountable than to make him stay! Taking individual responsibility is a major Israeli problem due to the strong affinity between teamwork and group responsibility. The fact that there is no visible good alternative is not an excuse for a tainted leader to stay in office, since he does not have the authority or the trust of the people and is not capable of driving major decisions. If there is no alternative the next government will most likely be a balanced coalition like we had in the past, which will cause less harm than an impotent head of state. The country will definitely not be in worse shape than with a lame duck leader who tries to satisfy everybody in order to stay in power.

A leader needs to make room if not for a short term better alternative, then at least for a long term one. People do not like elections, especially Parliament members who stand to lose their seat, but it is the only way in a democracy to decide the fate of leadership.

Have fun!

Dov P.S. If I juxtapose the two quotes below, it looks like you do see the paradox:

I don’t see the paradox. It is quite clear even to a non-leader like myself that personal agendas can unhinge on organizations’ – or, more importantly, countries’ – chances to survive…They tend to think that for the organization to survive they need to stay at the helm.

Well, they simply confuse their personal agenda with the survival of the organization regardless of their performance. Which implies these leaders cannot see what is obvious to you.

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