TEDxStCharles: Adaptive Leadership – Leading Change

, Marty Linsky

In the gap between aspiration and reality exists the opportunity for leadership. Marty Linksy made a number of distinctions to define leadership, drawing our attention to the distinction between authority and leadership, and between leadership and the title of leader.

An authority is what we want in an emergency – someone to be present for us, feel our pain, and calm us down. This is what we want an authority to do – but doing what we want is not leadership. Setting an expectation, delivering it at high quality, and receiving a reward is a job well done, but it is also not leadership. Leadership is about risks, and is dangerous.

Leadership is about needs, not wants. Marty said that we most needed to hear might not be the same thing that would get him applauded (and paid) Calling someone a leader won’t make them address our needs – leadership is an activity, not a title.

Certain types of problems are appropriate for authority, and others for leadership; those activities define what leadership is. Leadership is needed when the problem at hand involves adaptation, and especially for the distribution of loss. Nobody likes loss, but sometimes we need to create a void (my word) to allow for growth. (Freaky: sticky note of void fell down as I wrote that.) Since nobody likes loss, we look for a leader to do what needs to be done.

Posted Sunday, March 6th, 2011 under Conference.

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