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The Way I See It… The Notable Leader


Martin Addison, director of Video Arts Ltd looks at how leadership has evolved to reflect changes in society and identifies a new breed of leader for our times.

Throughout the last 20 years, business has changed and a greater value has been placed on individuals as intellectual capital where delegation and empowerment have become more important in order to cope with falling productivity and increasing pace of change. Leadership has needed to change to reflect this.

A paper by Steve Kempster, Director of Leadership Development, Lancaster University commissioned by Video Arts, identified a new breed of ‘Notable’ leader who influence behaviour by enhancing self-esteem and inspiring people through generating meaning and challenge. So, whether leadership is a role, a set of individual characteristics, a process of influence, or simply a followers desire for great people to enhance security, all these positions are embodied in Notables.

Society has changed and followers’ expectations of leaders have therefore similarly changed. Leadership is not cold and remote but instead it is an emotional, passionate and collective act where today’s generation of leaders need to be experts in coaching, stimulating and inspiring people through providing meaning and challenge.

The evolution of leadership and the development of the next generation of leaders will not just be created through formal development training, instead it will be reflected through lived experiences. The case study of Jamie Oliver is one such prime example, who has greatly influenced the understanding of leadership and drawn on other peoples experiences.

So the question is raised as to how we learn leadership. Steve Kempster’s paper makes a number of suggestions but singles out observing others and enactment in particular contexts as key factors. He makes the following observations:

* The dominance of learning about leadership through the influence of Notables can be seen to be ever present in the personal reflections of head teachers, sportsmen, religious leaders, politicians, organisational managers, even chefs!

* Followers draw from the attributes of Notables that they value. Such learning often occurs unconsciously through the lived experience from a range of contexts such as the home, school, church, sporting icons, or media represented images of politicians

* The influence of Notables also represents shifts in societal values and expectations, hence the “heroic” bully image of leadership creating undervalued, uncommitted and disempowered subordinates, is seen as unacceptable

* A new set of Notables perceived as leaders, symbolise current needs embodied in a post heroic model, creating shared responsibility, joint decision making, coaching and support – a learning centred approach.

One thing is clear about leadership, you cannot lead without followers. So perhaps you should ask, “why would any one follow you?”


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