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Were the Founding Fathers Mangers or Leaders?

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Were the Founding Fathers Mangers or Leaders?

This year for spring break we loaded up the family car and road tripped it to the Virginia Beach area. Along the way, we spent a few days in Colonial Williamsburg enjoying a journey back in time to the 1770’s Colonial America. While touring Williamsburg there were several re-enactors performing events of the day.

One involved then current agitators and future Presidents James Madison and James Monroe talking about raising an army to fight off the British tyranny. Their interactions reminded me of the generative distinction between leadership and management.

From a Generative Perspective we make the distinction that:

Management is the authority granted to an individual by an organization. As such, by their position, the ‘manager’ can take actions within the boundaries of the their role within the organization. This can include things such as hiring, firing, personnel matters, scheduling, expenditure of organizational funds, etc. When employees respond to the actions of the ‘manager’, it is out of fear of reprisal or the reward of following the directions or taking certain actions.

Leadership is the authority granted to an individual by their followers. Only the followers can decide to grant the authority to a leader. The ‘leader’ has no formal authority to lead, but has followers who, choose to take action based on their trust that the leader has their best interest in mind. The ‘leader,’ through their embodiment and actions either motivates the potential followers to follow them or not.

Related: It’s Now Imperative for Leaders to Lift up and See a Bigger Picture

The re-enactors playing Madison and Monroe were acting out the role of a generative leader, not a manager. It was through their actions, behaviors and embodiment of being, that the fires of liberty were stoked and the Revolution started. Think about it, they were fundamentally asking people to trust them and follow them in acts of rebellion and treason. Their followers did not take action because they thought Madison, Monroe, and others were good managers, but rather, they saw in these leaders a future that they were willing to risk their lives for. This is generative leadership. The American Revolution could not have started because of good managers, it took great leaders.

Hopefully, for all of us, we will only be asking our followers to commit to our organization’s vision, and be asking for their trust to follow us into the future. A great question to be asking yourself as you move forward in your organization is do you have followers who are following you because you are their manager, or are they following you because you are their leader?

The success of your organization could depend on it.

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