John Adair is an expert of leadership training and is among the world's top forty people who have contributed to the development of management practice. In this book he tries to understand and explain leadership through the sayings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. These sayings are found in the 'Analects' written down by his disciples based on their discussions with the philosopher - Confucius himself never wrote any book.
The book deals with the generic role of the leader in one part and some of the qualities necessary in leaders in the second part. In this blog apart from reviewing the book, I will pick and choose all the wonderful quotations and proverbs that he has quoted which contain a wealth of wisdom.
Firstly Adair dwells on what leadership is all about. He explains the model of the three sets of need that are present in all working groups and organizations - the task, the team and the individual. They are all interrelated of course.
Leadership and clarity go hand in hand he avers, at the very beginning.
In China, a leader (a highly specific role), he mentions, was called the vessel. (I liked that. One who contains the energies of the group.)
Also he dwells on the functions of a leader while getting the group to fulfil its task - defining the aim, planning, controlling, evaluating, supporting and encouraging.
It gives them life yet claims no possession
It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude
It is the steward yet exercises no authority
Apt for great leaders!
Or the best quote I have ever heard on leadership by Lao Tzu
The best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects
Next best is the ruler they love and praise
Next comes one they fear
Next comes one with whom they (despise or) take liberties
Fail to respect and trust people, they will fail to show respect and trust
The great ruler talks but little
When his task is accomplished and his work done
The people all say, 'It happened to us naturally'.
What is leadership?
Leadership, and I believe this too, is about showing the way. That in itself is a huge task. Most follow when the path is clear.
Roles are about expectations - performing what you are expected to do. If everyone is clear about their roles and act in accordance there will be harmony.
3 levels of leadership and Good leadership
Leadership responsibility is at three levels - team, operational and strategic. Leading is about showing the way and taking the team with you. And a good leader is one whom people will follow through thick and thin.
How to be a great leader
To be a great leader one must lead from the front - you cannot expect others to go where you are unwilling to go. The leader must lead by example because most follow the leaders actions blindly. The leader is the teacher too and needs to operate with patience and optimism and a long term perspective. Interestingly Adair says, leading from the front attracts love which is true power.
As leaders one must believe that humans tend to do good - which in itself shows that leaders need to deal in hope.
Socrates opined that Leadership should be given to those who have the ability to lead. Which implies, one should know the business.
On inspiring leadership
In Xenophon, Socrates's disciples words on inspiring leadership -
" ...inspiring leadership is about being able to make his soldiers feel that they must follow him through fire and in any adventure..."
"...some rowing masters can say and do the right thing and raise the men's spirits and make them work with a will. Other rowing masers are so lacking in this ability that it takes them twice the time to finish the voyage. Here they land bathed in sweat, with mutual congratulations, master and oarsmen. There, they arrive with dry skin; they hate their master and he hates them."
'...the man who commands efficiently must have obeyed others in the past, and the man who obeys dutifully is worthy of someday being a commander.'
'..the leader should be exemplary in his conduct, that by his manner he may show the way of life to his subjects
...' - Pope Gregory the Great
ACHIEVING THE TASK
Leaders should be action-oriented men or the doers.
'He puts his words into action before allowing his words to follow his action.'
A leader should be ashamed if his word outstripped his deed.
How do we achieve a task?
Have a purpose (ultimate end). Break it up into aims (open ended directional goals), broken into goals(closed end goals). Break it into objectives or targets (specific, concrete, time bound). Break it up further into steps (very definite things you can do to achieve objectives).
Planning and Execution
A good leader must be able to plan carefully and also be able to execute plans. Flexibility is essential in both planning and execution. A good leader should aspire to be both determined and tenacious when it comes to achieving ends, while remaining infinitely flexible over means.
Finish the Job
Though the journey must be broken into steps - both the first step and the last step are important. It is about finishing the job.
'If anyone were to employ me,in a year's time I would have bought things to a satisfactory state, and after three years I should have results to show for it.'
Don't think too much. Plan enough and move on.
BUILDING THE TEAM
"When people are of one mind and heart, they can move Mount Tai"
Combination is important
Only a selection of well-matched group of animals produces team work that is effective and efficient.
Get them together
When spiders unite they can tie up a lion. -Ethiopian proverb
Common good outside us
Once we are bound together to our brothers by a common good that is outside us, then we can breathe. Experience teaches us that love is not to gaze at one another but to gaze in the same direction. There is no comradeship except through unity on the same rope, climbing towards the same peak. - Antoine de Saint Exupery
Importance of a good leader
Ten good soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head. - Euripedes
Synergy and interdependence
The best of all teams are interdependent. They function best with a good leader, but they can function well for a time without one.
Combining individual strengths and pulling power in a common effort. Greater synergy is achieved when complementary skills, abilities and strengths are blended together. Acceptance of a common aim, agreement of operational rules and harmony of spirit is essential. A feeling of devotion to group and pride in belonging to it. Belonging to a team is a source of mutual strength and support.
DEVELOPING THE INDIVIDUAL
The wise leader meets the individual needs just as a parent does for his children.
Sun Tzu - "Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys, look on them as your beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death."
You have to demonstrate that each individual matters.
Evidence of trust begets trust, and love is reciprocated by love - Plutarch
Bringing out the best in them
Loving another person means that you want to bring out the best in them. Delegate wisely, giving juniors bigger roles and listening to them, makes them feel part of the group.
Don't appear to others in a way that deters them from offering you their opinions. Don't just go through the motions, genuinely listen to what others have to say and then weigh it.
To be able yet to ask the advise of those who are not able. to have many talents yet to ask the advise of those who have few. to have yet to appear to want. to be full yet to appear empty. to be transgressed against yet not mind. - Tseng-Tzu on Confucius's approach to leadership
The right attitude for a leader is to be other-centred, not self-centered.
Stop being anxious about what others think about you and apply yourself to being worthy of their appreciation. Sharpen your scythe, be ready to lead.
Judge people by their deeds and not words. But for the present only.
In his errors a man is true to his type. Observe the errors and you will know the man.
Certainly promote those who deserve to be promoted. In the rest don't fear, real talent will shine through.
All are equal to the leader. Listen to individuals. When you consult groups before a decision they will be more enthusiastic. Know individuals well.
SOME QUALITIES OF LEADERS
Some of the qualities necessary in leaders - Enthusiasm, Integrity, Being tough and demanding but fair, Warmth and Humility.
To be fond of something is better than merely to know it, and to find joy in it is better than merely to be fond of it. - Confucius
Good leaders are whole hearted, never give up, never show even when they are tired, never think of retiring.
Over daily routine do not show weariness and when there is action to be taken, give your best.
Give your purpose enthusiasm, hope, make it interesting. Infuse your enthusiasm in others. Encourage others. Never let others rob your enthusiasm.
It's a must. A good leader also needs practical wisdom and moral courage. Integrity means wholeness, unity.
It is happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust. - Samuel Johnson
When the shepherd is corrupt so is his flock. - Moorish proverb.
If you have lost the confidence of your team you must examine where you have resorted to dishonesty, duplicity, deceit, lying, dissimulation, manipulation.
Misleaders are blind shepherds. Is honesty the policy of your nation or your organization?
Being tough and demanding yet fair
The best leader is easy to serve but difficult to please.
The authority of position, of knowledge and of charisma - three types of authority.
King becoming graces - justice, integrity, temperance, stableness, generosity, perseverance, mercy, humility, devotion, patience, courage, fortitude.
If one sets strict standards for oneself and makes allowances for others when making demands on them, one will stay clear of ill will.
Be economical with praise - like gold and diamonds it owes it value to scarcity.
The master is cordial yet stern, awe-inspiring yet not fierce, and respectful yet at ease.
The chief has no relatives. - Tsonga people of Africa
By asking the impossible you get the best possible - Italian proverb
Leaders should not set out to be popular. Demanding through, the leader always respects the other. The other is always free to leave.
Don't compromise your standards or values. Demand the very best from your team and reward those who give it.
Justice is the first expression of love.
The one nearest the enemy is the real leader.
A good leader will exemplify qualities such as goodness, kindness, humanness and compassion.
You can tell what type of a person someone is by the way they treat strangers.
People know that they are loved.
I liked the quote from John Hunt.
"Leadership should mean giving a lead by example, even without a position of authority. True leadership ...displayed by men who have no high position or reputation at stake, but with much to lose in terms of security, in comradeship and convenience, who stand up for what they know, from their conscience to be right."
From a lecture he gave titled 'Leadership in The Modern Age'.
'Leadership is best described as the art of inspiring others to give their best, and the courage to use this art. ..demands that the leader operates from within the group and not above it, that in setting a good example he does not steal the initiative of others; in other words, he takes his full share - but no more than his share of the job at hand.'
'.. implies a willingness not merely to decentralize or apportion the burden, but an ability to persuade each member of the group that is an equally essential job and that each has his liberty as well as responsibility to develop that part of a whole.'
...it is the art of combining the efforts of everyone to produce a combined result. No place for arrogance."
To say you know when you know, and to say you do not when you do not, that is knowledge.
It brings in a lifelong learning, willingness to accept failures.
You are not born a leader, you become one. - African proverb
This is highly evolved form of leadership that Confucius talks about and one that leaders must aspire for. It is one that talks of leaders with vision, compassion, genuine love and where one talks of greater good unlike Machiavelli's clinging to power by crook. It's an easy read but one that must be dipped into once in a while. It reinforced many of my beliefs about leadership.