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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
Authority, leadership different animals,
October 27, 2006, 2D.
many people hear the word “leader,” a variety of titles and
positions come to mind. President, chief executive officer,
manager, principal, pastor, coach, and general are some
titles that are associated with leaders and leadership. In
many cases, the individuals who rise to such positions do so
because they possess leadership abilities and qualities.
Owning such titles, however, does not guarantee that the
person filling that organizational role is actually a
leader. Titles in organizations convey authority.
Authority is power that is vested in a certain position and
is formally defined in an organization’s personnel manual
and bylaws or constitutions. Leadership is different.
simple, but powerful example to get people to think about
leadership versus other forms of power and influence
involves placing a string on a table and asking a volunteer
to “lead” the string across the table with one finger.
Invariably, volunteers will place a finger on one end of the
string and draw it easily across the table with the string
“following” the finger.
second demonstration, the string is “pushed” from behind by
a single finger. This method requires the influencer to
adjust to the resistance, bending, and compression of the
string in front of the finger and readjust his or her
pushing to the parts that are falling behind. After this
demonstration, similarities and differences between the two
methods are noted. In both cases, a single finger was used
to move the string across the table, but conceptually, the
two methods are quite different.
first method, pulling the string behind the finger, is what
we commonly think of as leadership—the “influencer” is out
in front and the group follows. In organizations, this type
of influence arises when followers perceive an individual to
be worth following and they readily fall into line behind
the individual. Perceptions of worthiness arise when the
influencer is respected by the followers—for his or her
energy, commitment, charisma, and concern for the followers
and the goals of the organization. Leaders, or pullers,
inspire followers to join them in the pursuit of
organizational goals. Followers willingly respond to the
influence of leaders because of who they are, what they
represent, and the rewards that come from accomplishing
second method, pushing from behind, demonstrates another
form of power and influence. “Pushers” in organizations
often rely on threats, coercion, and intimidation to get
their people to perform. Instead of leading their followers
in the charge toward a goal, pushers prefer lagging behind
their workers and commanding them to perform. Pushers
derive their power from the authority vested in their
organizational positions. They do not inspire extraordinary
amounts of commitment or dedication from their people.
a position of authority in an organization does not make one
a leader. Leadership has to be earned in the eyes, minds,
and hearts of the followers. True organizational leaders
are those who inspire commitment, loyalty, and dedication to
themselves, their organizations, and their goals from their
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