Post-Modern Leadership (My Definition)

Increasingly, questions have been posed to me concerning the title of this blog, in particular, my use of the term post-modern leader.  So indulge me as I provide a short explanation…..

Post-modernism as a descriptive philosophy concerns itself with a state of transformation or change.  In this case, it is the fundamental transformation of leadership to which this site is dedicated.  Why, you might ask….

Fundamentally, the future (short-term and distant) will rely less on the transactional nature of management and leadership, which has thus far defined American business.  Now, many of you may state assuredly, “That’s nothing new….”  And you’d be right.

The notion of transformational leadership is hardly a new concept.  In fact, its entrance into business vernacular stretches back more than thirty years.  First, James MacGregor Burns and later renowned researchers Bass and Avolio pieced together a differentiated form of leadership that succeeds more through influence, relational strengths, and shared vision and motivations than from tit-for-tat, almost quid pro quo power and reward systems of leadership.  It’s a concept both intuitive and welcomed for its warmth, style and respect for others.

So how have we done in American businesses with the adoption of transformational leadership?  The great CEO success stories of the Googles, Southwest Airlines, and Yahoo make wonderful cocktail party repartee, but lurking in the shadows beyond the mere banter are those moldy and stained examples of failed transformation – leaders who failed to make the long trek from the plains of ordinary to extraordinary, from the proverbial Katmandu to the peak of Mt. Everest.  Why so many failures in the pursuit of something so noble?

Aborted transformations typically fall into several key buckets.  First, there are those well-intentioned leaders, who, understanding the value and profits of the promised lands, underestimate the length of the journey.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  But these leaders falter.  Mind you, this is not a path for the weak of heart or will.  Only the hearty need apply here!

Second, there are the “fast-followers,” those leaders and organizations built on loyalty and good deeds, but in perilous short supply of innovation and risk taking competency.  Those who wait and watch others, only attempting their own treacherous summit when other have safely arrived, often find the weather has soured just when they most need clear skies.  Their fate?  A frozen and icy death on the mountain of ordinary leadership.

And third, there are those precious few leaders who sense the opportunity ahead and leap at the chance to be the first to arrive, those for whom success is not relative, but the only option.  It is these leaders, rallying their band of trusty and sure-footed Sherpas to support them every step of the way, equipped with the crampons and pick axes of engaged and committed employees, and who reach the summit and embrace success.  These are the transformed visionaries of the business world, the post-modern, those who understand d the risks and challenges that stand between them and their dreams of successful organizations, but who never faltered or hesitated in what they knew in their hearts was the right direction toward leadership enlightenment.

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