Thursday, 22 August 2013

Barriers to Leadership

I called this blog Acts of Leadership, because this great concept - the brainchild of Marie Corelli (1905) I think - encapsulates what I think is inherent in human nature: the ability to lead. Not all the time, not in all ways, but through acts of leadership when we have something to offer.

In a leadership vacuum, we can chose to take leadership action, even though we are not the ‘official’ or acknowledged leader. Phil Dourado tells us that acts of leadership can be taken anywhere, at any time, by any person in an organisation (2007), and that “a vibrant organization is full of acts of leadership” (2007, p. 164). Great results “depend […] on the capacities of individuals (who may be located in a wide variety of positions)” (Dourado, 2007, p. 165, citing Flowers, 2005).

My current hot topic is that of barriers to leadership. A wee bit of my teaching focuses on this. I talk with my students about leadership barriers because in general they spring from within ourselves.

When we say “Oh, I could, but…” we are often listening to our great personal, internal knocking machine.

Terry Pratchett (p 218, 2009) wrote in Unseen Academicals: Verity “reached down and picked a crab out of the bucket. As it came up, it turned out that three more were hanging in to it. “ A crab necklace?”, giggled Juliet. “Oh, that’s crabs for you,” said Verity, disentangling the ones who had hitched a ride. “Thick as planks, the lot of them. That’s why you can keep them in a bucket without a lid, Any that tries to get out gets pulled back. Yes, as thick as planks.”

That’s also how society works: we perceive people 'disapproving' when we get ideas 'above our station'. So what happens if we ignore those societal aspects of 'disapproval'? Usually nothing. This perceived societal 'threat' tends to evaporate like mist if (a) we ignore it and (b) we remain true to ourselves and our goals. In fact, if we are successful, then we are lauded by our societies for our courage and vision.

I tell my students that their learning will hopefully help to evaporate their barriers to taking the lead... the rest is up to them.



  • Corelli, Marie (1905). The Spirit of Work in The Daily Mail (Editors) The Queens Christmas Carol: An anthology of poems, stories, essays, drawings and music by British authors, artists and composers. UK: Ballantyne Press 
  • Dorado, Phil (2007). The 60 Second Leader: Everything you need to know about leadership, in 60 second bites. UK: Capstone Publishing Ltd 
  • Pratchett, Terry (2009). Unseen Academicals. UK: Doubleday

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