Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

A True Leader

--by Dee Hock (Mar 31, 2008)

Leader presumes follower. Follower presumes choice. One who is coerced to the purposes, objectives, or preferences of another is not a follower in any true sense of the word, but an object of manipulation. Nor is the relationship materially altered if both parties accept dominance and coercion. True leading and following presume perpetual liberty of both leader and follower to sever the relationship and pursue another path. A true leader cannot be bound to lead. A true follower cannot be bound to follow. The moment they are bound, they are no longer leader or follower. The terms leader and follower imply the freedom and independent judgment of both. If the behavior of either is compelled, whether by force, economic necessity, or contractual arrangement, the relationship is altered to one of superior/subordinate, management/employee, master/servant, or owner/slave. All such relationships are materially different than leader-follower.

Induced behavior is the essence of leader-follower. Compelled behavior is the essence of all the others. Where behavior is compelled, there lies tyranny, however benign. Mere behavior is induced, there lies leadership, however powerful. Leadership does not imply constructive, ethical, open conduct. It is entirely possible to induce destructive, malign, devious behavior and to do so by corrupt means. Therefore, a clear, meaningful purpose and compelling ethical principles evoked from all participants should be the essence of every relationship, and every institution.

A compelling question is how to ensure that those who lead are constructive, ethical, open, and honest. The answer is to follow those who will behave in that manner. It comes down to both the individual and collective sense of where and how people choose to be led. In a very real sense, followers lead by choosing where to be led. Where a community will be led is inseparable from the conscious, shared values and beliefs of the individuals of which it is composed.

True leaders are those who epitomize the general sense of the community who symbolize, legitimize, and strengthen behavior in accordance with the sense of the community who enable its conscious, shared values and beliefs to emerge, expand, and be transmitted from generation to generation-who enable that which is trying to happen to come into being. The true leader's behavior is induced by the behavior of every individual who chooses where they will be led.

--Dee Hock

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9 Previous Reflections:

On Aug 17, 2008 SIVA PILAY wrote:
Leadership,following and the vision of an institution are inextricably intertwined.It is imperative that both the leader and the followers of an organisation take ownership of the vision and uncondiditionally strive through, its mission statement, to realise the institution's vision for the good of all its stakeholders,then, leaders will be able to lead and followers follow.I agree with Dr Kamlen Pillay's point that serving is an integral and vital condition for both the leader as well as the follower.

On Aug 16, 2008 Dr Kamlen Pillay wrote:
In its very essence, leadership does not in any form imply that there has to exist a "leader" and a "follower". A true leader is any individual that is willing to pioneer and champion a cause without the intent of receiving a reward.

A Leader acts with the knowledge that his actions will benefit the majority of human beings, with a sense of altruism as opposed to personal gain.

A true leader will be a bastion of hope where neither hope nor followers (for that matter) even exists.

Thus seek not to lead but rather to serve and you will find that by definition, you are indeed a leader.

On Aug 4, 2008 Smav wrote:
I think we are all leaders in some sense, we can only draw a line on what lead role we choose, whether a leader or a follower, all power & sense of being whatever should e induced from within, not compelled by any force, however in life we tend to take follower as serventhood, believing that the leader is better equiped to think for teh follower, which is very wrong-there comes in a self-exerted compelling force which you either deny its a serving spirit at all costs. Dee Hock, i'd really love to get a comprehensive copy of this eye opening article. Moreover i'd like to get your thoughts in relation to Religious leadership, walking according to laws and how all these relate to this article.

On Apr 29, 2008 XAVIER wrote:
To sum it off, i will borrow a quote from John C. Maxwell on "The 21 irrefutable Laws of Leadership" wrt the above article.

A Leader do not choose his Followers.
The Followers choses their leader.

Xavier, Singapore

On Apr 19, 2008 sarfaraz wrote:
very much best

On Apr 2, 2008 mukesh kumar wrote:
Hi ,good morning,i read about leader and follower,i got and thnk it will be beneficial for me bkz i want to learn these things.

On Apr 1, 2008 gamoba wrote:
In Indian tradition we use the term GURU for this role. anyway the word is only a pointer, so let us not quibble about the word. Let us live the essence of the process.
This is an interactive process and hence it is essential that there be no differentiation between the participants in the process. One other aspect to note that it is not a process that happens between two peraons only. It is a community affair; open and public.

On Apr 1, 2008 Conrad wrote:
Dee Hock is outstanding. Too often it seems that schools and univeasities don not have leaders. Thanks much

On Apr 1, 2008 Karen wrote:
Thought this was a thought provoking article about being a leader. I honestly believe you are a better leader than I, and it is apparent the way you run your business. I am striving to be a better leader. That is my purpose I believe.

I love you.