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Real Leadership

Key Idea

Real leaders confront reality. They get people to change their habits, values or priorities in order to respond to a real threat or a real opportunity. Real leaders are problem solvers; their singular skill is the ability to diagnose what is the core challenge facing the organization and then how to address that challenge. In many ways, real leaders can lead effectively in multiple contexts and precisely because they have the ability to respond to the demand of the current situation.

Book to Read

Real Leadership: Helping People and Organizations Face their Toughest Challenges
by Dean Williams (2005)

Quick Take from the Book

Williams argues that the real leader responds to six challenges:

  1. The Activist Challenge (calling attention to a contradiction in values).
  2. The Development Challenge (cultivating the capacity for the organization to grow and change).
  3. The Transition Challenge (supporting the efforts of the organization to move from one system of values to another).
  4. The Maintenance Challenge (protecting and sustaining what is essential during hard times).
  5. The Creative Challenge (doing what has never been done before).
  6. The Crisis Challenge (leading in a period of extreme danger).

Quote of Note

"The wisdom to lead does not come by being isolated from the people in one’s office or castle, or being excessively preoccupied with formulating strategies and plans. Wisdom derives from the interactive and reflective process of figuring out with the group how the various strands of a problematic reality are connected to the people’s values and priorities, and then determining what values to promote in order to give the people their best shot at success. Fundamentally, wisdom is a deeper form of insight into why the system works the way it does. 
— p. 10

Related Styles: Results-based Leadership, Tough-minded Leadership, Transactional Leadership

Return to List of Leadership Styles