Is Leadership A “Social Process”?

Four well-known, academic thinkers and writers on leadership recently released a book, “Exploring Leadership” (Oxford University Press). Although the book leaves many question unanswered and tends to get stuck in academic debates, I find myself intrigued by the authors insistence that leadership is a “social process”. By their definition, leadership exists in the interactions between the leader and those who look to her/him for leadership. Specifically, rather than a command-and-control style, the social process view requires leaders who are “prepared to ask questions and involve others in determining what to do rather than offering an immediate solution or decisive action.” In today’s complex, multi-dimensional world, gathering data through listening to others with different viewpoints appears to be a definite requisite for successful leadership—precisely what these authors maintain.  And yet, what we see on so many fronts are leaders (both corporate as well as political), listening only to people who share their worldview.  It is rather like the tobacco industry that is only interested in supporting research to prove tobacco is not a deadly killer while other research provides alternative (and safe) uses for the plant. Can we afford such leaders? I would suggest that such people are not really leaders but rather mimes reflecting a pre-determined course of action. Your thoughts?

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