Wall Street Journal op-ed: Before the Pandemic, They Were Anonymous. Now They’re the Best Leaders We Have., by Sam Walker (author, The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams (2018)):
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world, a funny thing is happening. The leaders who have distinguished themselves under pressure are rarely the bold, charismatic, impulsive, self-regarding, politically calculating alphas we’ve elected. The real heroes have been, for lack of a better term, career deputies [e.g., Chen Chien-jen (Taiwan), Jung Eun-kyeong (South Korea), Anthony Fauci (United States), Jenny Harries (Britain), Mutahi Kagwe (Kenya)]. ...
These examples, and many others, point to one underlying theme. In a crisis, nobody cares how big your personality is or how disruptive you can be. The leaders we crave are the ones who show up every day, never stop to think of themselves and, above all, seem to know what they’re talking about.
The obvious question is this: If these deputies are such capable leaders, why are they deputies? ...
[In Covid-19 Was A Leadership Test. It Came Back Negative.,] I wrote about one possible explanation. While all leaders are judged by how well they respond to a crisis, the true mark of greatness is what a leader does between emergencies. The best ones never rest; they work behind the scenes, without bravado, to prevent the next crisis from happening. When they succeed, however, they literally have nothing to show for it. They don’t project boldness. They seem like drab worriers.
The bigger problem, I’d argue, is that too many talented and qualified leadership candidates are reluctant to step forward. They need to be pushed. Case in point: one of America’s most beloved and effective presidents, Dwight Eisenhower, had to be cajoled into running.
Researchers haven’t found any evidence that people with a burning desire to lead make better leaders, but they’re far more likely to acquire power.
Deborah Gruenfeld, a professor at Stanford’s business school and author of a new book, Acting with Power (full disclosure: My wife is her agent), has spent 25 years studying the psychology of power.
She divides leaders into two camps: those who pursue authority to serve themselves and those who see it as a means to serve others. In many cases, candidates with a “service” mind-set are uncomfortable promoting their candidacies, while those who seek power for personal gratification love nothing more.
Over time, and especially in the age of social media, the expectations we’ve heaped on high-profile leaders have made it nearly impossible for anyone to meet them all. Those of us who crave power may not care, Dr. Gruenfeld says, but servant types may back out for fear of letting others down.
April 9, 2020 in Coronavirus, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink
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