My post on Michael Maccoby's definition of leaders as "someone that people follow" generated a lot of discussion, including a comment for Maccoby himself that, in The Leaders We Need, "I go one to raise the difficult
questions: Why is this person being followed? How is this person being
followed? Where is the leader taking followers? The best leaders are
working for the common good and not personal power. However, as I point
out, the ability to engage followers depends on understanding those
followers, something theories of leadership often ignore." To reinforce the point, he does a splendid of addressing this tough question in the book.
I was especially taken with the wisdom of his next comment, on the "managing vs. leading" post that followed a few days later. Professor Maccoby pointed out that:
"Bob- Your point about successful business visionaries having deep knowledge about their products fits my experience. However, I think we should differentiate leadership which always involves a relationship as contrasted with management which has to do with processes and systems. Yes, leaders should understand management. However, management doesn't always need a manager. I have worked with factories where management is done by teams. Furthermore, you find different kinds of leaders in knowledge organizations today-- strategic, operational, networking--and they have different styles and qualities. We should no longer be thinking about the leader, but rather an effective interactive leadership system that includes strategy, implementation and facilitation. This can't be achieved by management alone at a time of constant change when people need inspiration, a sense of purpose and enthusiasm to achieve their goals."
I love this comment because of that key phrase "management doesn't always need a manager," indeed, as Maccoby suggests, the management function can be replaced by everything from self-managing teams to rules that are embedded in an enterprise software system. But leadership implies a level of interaction and wisdom that is not so easily replaced. Nice point, and I thank Michael for join the conversation, as he has studied and worked with leaders for decades. In addition to "The Leaders We Need," I would also recommend his wonderful Harvard Business Review article on Narcissistic Leaders (which you can read here at his website) and his 2007 book in such leaders. Finally, I first read heard of Maccoby's work on leadership when I was a graduate student, one of my classmates gave me a copy of his classic bestseller The Gamesman. It appears to be out of print, but is definitely worth tracking down. If you are interested here is a 1977 Time Magazine story about it.
Michael, thanks for taking time to comment and for all your great stuff on leadership.