A leader’s singular job is to get results. So says Dan Goleman of “Emotional Intelligence” fame and many others who pontificate on the subject of leadership. I wonder if that’s actually true.
I appreciate the concept of emotional intelligence and many of the other leadership insights that are available to us. At the same time, I continue to wonder if this focus on “results” doesn’t get in our way sometimes when we are trying to figure out what makes a truly great leader. Where I am on this question right now is that the notion that the job of a leader is to get results is perhaps a necessary part of the picture, but not sufficient.
For example, is there anybody else whose job it is to get results? Yes…most of us. Whether you are the CEO or a high school intern, there are usually expectations that you would deliver something. There is almost always accountability or at least responsibility to be productive. The scale and degree may change, but it is obvious that you don’t have to be a leader to deliver results. In fact, one could argue that the singular purpose of most of the employed population is results. (We could argue this about life itself, but that is just a wee bit beyond the framework of this blog!)
So let’s look at the claim in the opposite direction. Is it true that a leader is only responsible for delivering results? Is there nothing else for which a leader is responsible? If results aren’t needed, is there any need for a leader? What about the manner in which the results are obtained? Do we hold leaders responsible for that as well?
I think we do. Or at least, we should. And I think this is where we sometimes get into trouble. While it may make little sense to have a leader unless we are trying to get somewhere (results?), I think to say that the arriving at the destination is the leader’s sole purpose is to dangerously simplify the role the leader plays. There is a connection between the leader and the led that isn’t described in a single minded focus on results.
A strong leader achieves results with followers in mind. I’m not arguing that this is a socialistic endeavor or that the leader is always leading by consensus or unanimous agreement. But effective leaders remember that they have a responsibility to those who look to them for leadership. This is what makes effective leadership so difficult. If my sole purpose is to achieve an outcome, then the path I follow matters only to the degree that it affects the end result. But if I’m truly a leader, the impact of the path I chose on those who travel with me is an important aspect of my responsibility.
Feel free to comment. Do you agree? Am I puffing up the role of a leader beyond it's true definition?