The Limits of Leadership

“Imagine the organization that has been given a Herculean task with insufficient resources to accomplish it,” says Col. Reed. “We’ll run good leaders into the ground if we try to train and lead our way out of that situation.” Again, leadership is not a universal panacea. In fact, leaders are really not responsible for all of the doing; they set the direction for others to carry through.

Leadership demands delegation, asking others to share in the load. At the same time, leaders must ensure that their employees have the authority and responsibility to get the job done. For example, if a manager asks an engineer to be a project manager but neglects to assign people to her team, then the project is doomed to failure. The engineer may be held responsible for missing the deadline, but in reality it is her manager who is at fault.

Successful organizations are those that value learning and expect their people to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes so that they grow their own skills. With such knowledge comes empowerment and accountability. That is leadership on a personal level, one that can propel the entire organization forward.

John Baldoni is a leadership communications consultant who works with Fortune 500 companies as well as non-profits including the University of Michigan. He is a frequent keynote and workshop speaker as well as the author of six books on leadership; the latest is How Great Leaders Get Great Results (McGraw-Hill).

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