Define a word, and you have launched or facilitated what you will do in its name. A good example is the word "leadership." Whatever it means to you will predict what you will do in its name. It will predict to how you will interpret the "leader's" performance. And it will predict to how you interpret what others say about "leadership." If you use it as a synonym for "management," then you may use the two words interchangeably. If you don't know exactly what someone does, then that person may be a "leader" because he or she is influential. A president might be viewed as a "leader" for no particular reason other than that we attach that label to him or her.
Now, there may still be two or three leader-mongers out there who don't or can't see leadership as a performing art. Leadership is a role, not a person. Thus those few may miss the only two important criteria for judging a "leader's" performance in that role:
- How well the incumbent plays the role he or she got into; and
- What the residual consequences were of how he or she played the role.
The first criterion is easy enough. But, since most people don't play life according to how well they perform the roles they get themselves into, they think it's all a matter of ad hoc opinion. You can applaud or damn your spouse's performance as a spouse. My guess would be that either way, you're not looking at that person's role description (if they even have one). What is the "leader's" unique role in every instance? A Broadway actress is "successful" if the show is sold out for months, not because you can mimic her singing. And our "leaders"?
Most people would rather skip the second criterion. That's because they don't want to be held accountable for their own impact on other people - or the society. They think"freedom" gives them the prerogative to ruin other people's lives - what ever their motives.
More in Part 2...