Leadership Activities

We are being assailed from all sides, but particularly from the news media, with doleful reports of the failure of leadership in practically all areas of public life. Certainly some of these reports are justified, but what is missing is comprehensive discussion of what leadership is. What we get is a “definition” that supports an author’s particular complaint.

While I have no comprehensive definition of leadership, I do have five activities that I have used in class, which some readers may remember, because they give us a common starting point. And, this last statement is key to making judgements about leadership: they give us a basis to begin our thinking.

Guarantor: If you promise that something should or will happen, you can be counted on to see that it does.

Educator: A leader has to work to inform himself, to be open to changing his/her actions on the basis of new knowledge – to be a learner. In addition, a leader must work to educate those with whom he/she is working – to see that they get information that is necessary to their changing their behavior in a way that helps them integrate some change into their thinking.

Fixer: A leader must be willing and able to fix things that are not going as they were intended to go.

Broker: A leader mediates between and among different and sometimes competing interests. This involves understanding the position of each of the interests and working to represent each interest to the others in a manner that will promote achieving consensus.

Agitator: A leader must follow through to see that projects simply do not become bogged down in organizational complexity. He or she has to find out where projects are, why they are not moving, and deal with the people who can move things along.

Drawn from A Very Special Relationship, by Alex Danchev

  1. #1 by Leo on December 5, 2013 - 2:29 am

    I rather like those five activities of leadership. If only, in my opinion, because these activities are a function of leadership regardless of leadership theory you like. Nor do they all need to be encompassed in a single person. If I ever find a bit of time, it might be fun to see how the activities would map across the various leadership theories.

  2. #2 by John Boswell on December 5, 2013 - 3:13 pm

    Danchev based his book on a study of the work of Sir John Dill the head of the British military delegation to Washington during WWII. Dill had been appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff after the British were run out of Dunkirk. Unfortunately, he didn’t suit PM Churchill either and he was appointed Governor General of Bombay and sent on his way through Washington for what was supposed to be a brief stint until someone else could be found to represent the British on a joint military commission. Dill and General Marshall, US Chief of Staff got on so well that when it came time for Dill to move on, Marshall got Pres Roosevelt to tell Churchill that would not be a good move. Danchev, on the British General Staff (I think) in the 70s studied Dill’s activities on the joint commission and came up with his list of activities. The thing that impressed me was that Dill had no standing with the PM, but a lot with the British General Staff and Marshall. I have always thought that it was trust that belonged in there somewhere.

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