Not all that leaders do is leadership stuff. It’s also not uncommon that leaders fail to rise to a challenge facing them. On the other hand, it’s often a challenge or a crisis afoot facing an organization that brings to the fore somebody with true leadership potential matching the rigorous need of the moment and the situation.
Aristotle in his Poetics (Part VI) famously weighs in upon the distinction between thought, character and action and lays ultimate emphasis on action as it’s action which finally affirms character and proves decisive:
“…thought and character- are the two natural causes from which actions spring, and on actions again all success or failure depends… life consists in action, and its end is a mode of action, not a quality. Now character determines men’s qualities, but it is by their actions that they are happy or the reverse.”
Similarly leadership relates more to the actions performed rather than traits or virtues attributed or claimed.
Looked at thus, leadership becomes a dynamic process. The distinction between character and action or between values and performance is very subtle as they are not so distinct as they apparently seem to be.
Our values build up and further evolve in finer propositions and principles in complex situations of life. If the situation is very complex and the available frame of values doesn’t provide a clear and positive solution where the best good of the organization and the larger society can be served the leader must be capable to see through the dynamics of the situation and determine, decide and act accordingly.
Leadership action in such a situation further defines and determines the character and the value frame of the organization and its leadership. The major challenge for leadership in such a complex situation is to be able to give an upward thrust to the organization and the society at large which might imply rising above the present value frames which doesn’t mean compromising with values but rising above and redefining them in the interest of the larger good. This is how legislations advance as societies evolve.
In such complex and critical situations leaders need to have their hands placed on the very pulse of the people, be thoroughly involved in the conscious or unconscious processes at work that impart life and the motivation to move forward to the organization.
Great leaders like Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. have always shown the way out to human society in most complex situations as they were deeply aware not only of the conscious but also of the unconscious processes or the very dynamics of consciousness that peoples and societies evolve through. When times and situations demanded they also rose above the prevailing values and standards of the society and talked and acted in the eternal value frames of love, compassion and peaceful coexistence as they could clearly perceive that these value frames are not only the finest frames that allow room for global growth and well being, they are also the value frames within which human consciousness and potential may unfold into its finer growth. It’s within such larger value frames that excellence has come to be reckoned as a universally recognized human virtue as it provides vast open spaces for human consciousness to unfold and flourish, to evolve and advance to its higher frontiers.
So what is true leadership action? Looked at in the dynamics of consciousness:
* It is a deeply knowing and
* It is a deeply determined action as it
flows from an intuitive vision which
surpasses analytical intelligence both
in its capability to see through the
complexity of the situation and its
* It is a novel act and statement in
* It not only shows the way out of a
complex situation but also
illumines the hearts and the minds of
the people involved in it.
Our actions grow in the soil of our values under the climate of our consciousness and they in turn either enrich or impoverish our values and our consciousness. But it need not turn into a vicious circle as humans are capable ‘to be conscious of being conscious’ (as neuroscience has recognized too) which implies the power to be the observer of one’s own actions and even their roots from where they spring. Thus humans are capable of upgrading their values and transforming their consciousness and therefore their actions. This capability gives rise to the human potential for what we can term as true leadership action.