With all of the problems facing the American people, including the massive debt, high unemployment and rising inflation, they are becoming increasing aware of the absence of leadership, as one party jockeys with the other for power, finger-pointing, fear mongering, without addressing the substance of the problems and issues that are about to overwhelm society.
Every leader has a responsibility to a variety of key constituencies. In business, they include employees, stockholders, supplier, and external communities. In politics, these include the country, voters, congressional district, state and party.
Effective leaders build emotional connections and bonds with each of their constituencies, creating a balance between often, conflicting agendas. In effective leaders will sacrifice the needs of one or more groups in favor of the needs of a favored group. This is observed in business, where shareholder value is paramount, often at the cost of other key constituencies, such as employees, suppliers and external communities.
Often, this results in damaging a company’s long-term sustainability to satisfy short-term stockholders’ needs. In politics, we see a rise in corporate cronyism, where favored companies, groups and unions are provided with financial benefits denied the general population. In both instances, these imbalances are formulas for failure, and point to the absence of any form of effective leadership.
Meaningful solutions to any problems and pressing issues must include the creation of an emotional balance, where all key constituencies’ needs are realistically considered, addressed and included in the solution.
The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies. The synergetic relationship between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership and provides insight into a new definition of it.
The presence of legitimacy endows leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.
It is assumed that leaders automatically possess legitimacy. My research demonstrates that this is a fallacy. It shows that legitimacy is derived from two separate sources that grant leaders permission to lead. The first source is authority or the power granted to leaders by either election, or appointment to office. Rudolph Giuliani observed,
“A leader is chosen because whoever puts him there trusts his judgment, character and intelligence… It’s a leader’s duty to act on those attributes.”
The second source is validity. Validity is not conferred, nor is it automatically achieved once one is appointed. It is earned and is a contributing factor to the authority granted to a leader, typically over the span of his or her career. This defines a leader as genuine and authentic in the eyes of all key constituencies.
Both sources of legitimacy compliment each other, but validity provides an enduring, yet fragile acquiescence of all the constituencies that gives a leader the tacit permission to lead. It is built upon three critical factors: trust, credibility and emotional balance.
My research demonstrates that these are the hallmarks of great leaders. Without the presence of these three critical factors, the leader’s validity collapses. Once a leader loses his or her validity, the authority to lead is significantly undermined.
For more information on this topic, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).