I don’t like to be called a leader. The detailed reasons for why are at the bottom of this post, but the long and short of it is that I’m really not a fan of the term itself. So a few weeks ago I set out to figure out whether there’s a better label for what it is that I do. For a while I settled on Catalyst, but that was a little too terminal and consumptive (and if you really thought about it, was a little too much like a consultant). I went through the various meanings of different thigns I’d consider to be a leadership type descriptive, and then realized that what I really need to think about is the goals that a “leader” tries to actually achieve. They seemed to fall out into two different categories: What the leader is trying to accomplish, and what personal objective said leader has.
Accomplishment: Goal vs. Activity
An Goal based leader has a clear objective in mind, something that is defined and reachable, and though it might take some time to get there the final goal is ‘terminal’ in that the leader no longer really has a purpose after it has been reached. In contrast, an Activity based leader never has a goal, but is rather there to maintain a long-term activity of some kind. As an example, consider the difference between a Celebrity and a Forester. The former acts to further their own career and gain fans, which includes everything from capitalizing on a sex tape (Paris Hilton) to adopting a fake persona (Miley Cyrus). In contrast, a Forester is a person who cares exclusively about the health of trees in our society. Anything he or she does exists for a community that can’t even really thank them for it.
Personal Objectives: Individual vs. Community
A leader’s personal objectives – the thing he or she gets out of it – can usually be mapped from purely personal goals to purely community based goals. Someone who works to achieve personal goals might be more interested in self promotion, speaker engagements, or other performance opportunities: Anything to get their name out there. The community based leader would instead care about the support of a group they are a member of: Group promotion, achievement, growth and impact.
Example: Celebrity vs. Shelter coordinator. The former acts purely in their own self interest, and even charitable acts work towards elevating themselves as an individual of a certain type. The latter works towards supporting and sustaining a community that exists on the underbelly of society- chances are it’s neither glamorous nor personally promotive.
Labeling the Axes
Under normal circumstances, I’d map these two axes on a cartesian coordinate plane and be done with it, but quite frankly, individuals might have different motivations for pursuing leadership activities at different times, and their contribution can very easily be acquired by playing to a different radius of their motivations. A circle graph is a much better way of describing the various levels of commitment. As you can see, the real benefit of this graphic is that it allows an individual to have aspects of many different leadership types. Thus, grey cases can easily be quantified by virtue of where they fall across different radials.
Leadership Map: Michael Krotscheck
Do It Yourself Leadership Map
Catalyst: A purely goal based leader, who works to achieve a personal goal and, upon achieving it, drops everything. Examples: Olympic coaches, Wedding Planners, Party Organizers.
Consultant: A leader interested in achieving a goal, but who does so for public acknowledgement of their own expertise. Examples: Contractors, Subject Matter Experts, Bloggers.
Celebrity: An individual leading a group of followers for their own fame and status. Examples: Celebrities, Popular Musicians, Jerry Springer.
CEO: An individual promoting an activity via or in order to support their own standing. Examples: CEO’s, Politicians, Televangelists
Enzyme: A person who acts and leads purely in pursuit of a particular activity. Examples: Open Source Contributors, Musicians, Artists.
Collaborator: An individual who leads a community for the enjoyment or pursuit of a particular activity. Example: Community Moderator for an MMO, Professional User Group Manager, Forum Moderator
Volunteer: Someone who dedicates their time entirely to a community. Example: Shelter Manager, Political Party Volunteer, Forester.
Firefighter: An individual who reaches goals on behalf of a community. Examples: EMS, City Manager, Police Officer.
Leadership Map: Do it yourself!
Why I Wrote This
There are a lot of things I do not because I want any kind of respect or recognition, but because someone needs to do it and nobody’s stepped up. There’s clearly a need… in some cases the need is so blatantly obvious that the company is hemorrhaging as a result (Note: Never let a CEO write your intranet), yet for various reasons it’s never fixed because while many are enthusiastic for a change, nobody’s willing to put the time or resources towards fixing it.
To elaborate on that: a lot of people are enthusiastic about X, Y, or Z, but if you ever ask them to commit to a date or show up at a particular time or maybe help out a little, the first thing that happens is a long list of excuses. If anything, this has taught me that nobody can be relied upon in a pinch, and has probably exacerbated my own lone wolf tendencies: I know I can’t rely on others, so I just go and do it.
That’s why I hate being called a “Leader”, because suddenly I’ve become the guy who’s responsible for listening to all the excuses, making all the last minute arrangements, encouraging people, motivating people, arranging facilities and resources and all that other crap, while in reality I just want to fix a problem or make an idea a reality… and here I am getting dragged down in all this pointless red tape. Mind you, when it all does come together it’s the sexiest thing in the world, and I live for moments like that, but those times are rare at best.
Also, I end up taking all the blame if something fails. And I hate being seen as a failure.