PMI Bangalore Chapter

PM Article: The Source of all Leadership

The Source of all Leadership

Peter de Jager
“Are Leaders born or made?” That’s an old question. It’s been asked before – many times – and it’ll be asked again – many times. Even so it’s worth exploring, we might not uncover anything new but it might serve as an exercise – especially if we measure ourselves against our findings.
Jan 01
Head to the Internet and search for the term ‘Leadership Attributes’ and you’ll find a few tens of thousands of attempts to list the ‘Key’/’Prime’/’Major’/’Crucial’/’Critical’ etc. attributes. Here are a few of these selected at random.
Jan 21
Obviously, while there are some common threads here, these types of lists span the wide spectrum of human personality. This shouldn’t surprise us too much. We are each drawn to certain types of leaders and their leadership skills differ. Churchill was not the same type of leader as was Gandhi, George G. Bush was not the same type of leader as Barrack Obama. Not only does each leader differ in ‘style’ but also in purpose and direction.

To complicate matters? There have been leaders with huge followings, who initiated monstrous change in the world, and who led the world in directions many of us would not have chosen by choice – yet to mention them by name as ‘Great Leaders’ – immediately initiates heated discussions about what it means to be a ‘good leader’ or to be ‘good at leading’.

The leadership discussion is a necessary one in all organizations, if only for the fact that there seems to be a shortage of leaders in our organizations, communities and society in general.

At the core of every ‘leadership attribute’ list are two traits, mostly assumed, often unmentioned on the internet lists.

1) A personal passion for some goal that isn’t currently being accomplished.
2) An ability to communicate that goal to others so that there is something to work towards.

With passion comes determination, initiative, courage, dedication etc. One could argue that passion makes us so focused on what we want to achieve, that the question of ‘courage’ never arises. When a parent rushes into a burning build to save their child – does ‘courage’ figure into their decision? Or is it ‘merely’ an overwhelming focus on their goal? “Save my child!” regardless of any other consequences. When Terry Fox ran across Canada, was it ‘courage’, or a single minded focus on a personal objective that would brook no interference?

When it comes to the secondary trait, the ‘ability to communicate’, this doesn’t always present itself in the form of words. It’s often ‘nothing but’ the creation of a highly visible example. Once again Terry Fox comes to mind. His actions have had a persistent and growing legacy – and while his words still sound in our ears – it’s his actions, and the images of him on his lonely run, that continue to swell his following year after year.

These examples of leadership might seem a bit removed from the office environment, but we need leaders amongst the corridors and cubicles as much as we need them on the world stage. There are some other attributes of leadership which are important. Fairness, Responsibility, Trust, Consistency, Clear Vision etc. It’s not just that there’s a lack of leaders in our organizations, there’s a growing lack of any of the attributes of leadership anywhere in our organizations. There’s a consequence to this trend.

Leadership is by definition, also about followers. Followers display the characteristics of their leaders. If the Leader is ‘dedicated/ hardworking/ trustworthy/determined/loyal’ then so will be the followers. Today one of the great management complaints is the lack of dedication, trustworthiness, loyalty, determination etc. of ‘Generation ?’ (Choose a letter of your choice from the available alphabet)

I wonder what’s going on… more to the point… I wonder which came first, the lack of motivated followers in our organizations, or the lack of leadership attributes worth following in our organizations?

Organizations exist for only one reason… they exist to fulfill a ‘purpose’. That purpose differs from organization to organization of course, but each organization has a purpose. Almost by their nature they require ‘followers’ in the form of employees who work together to achieve that purpose. If we ask our employees what their purpose is… would the responses we collect display the same consistency of purpose as would the responses from a room full of Terry Fox followers? Gandhi followers? MLK followers?

We tend to think about leadership in terms of individuals and forget that organizations must demonstrate leadership traits if we are to reasonably expect our employees – followers all – to exhibit loyalty, dedication, hard work, determination.

Leadership isn’t an idle topic. It’s a vital topic for every organization. Without leadership, we’re not making progress, we’re merely marking time.

(c) 2017 Peter de Jager – reprinted with permission. Peter is a keynote speaker and workshop facilities, You can contact Peter at: and see more of his work at: