The following are approximately the first 1000 words from Chapter 10 of Jonar Nader’s book,
How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People.
The wrong question will lead to the wrong answer
For some reason, ‘leadership’ has been well-branded. As a single word, it commands great respect. Remarkably, most people would be happy to be dubbed a leader, despite the popular notion that some leaders are good and just as many are evil. The term is used respectfully in business, sport, government, and in battle.
In the presence of too many would-be leaders, and to stand out from the crowd, some disown the ambiguous title and bestow upon themselves something humbler, like ‘servant-leaders’ who prefer to engage in ‘stewardship’.
When the tribe follows and copies, things must change once more. To stand apart, the proud invent another branch of leadership such as: effective leadership; breakthrough leadership; strategic leadership; or situational leadership. There are those too who bow out gracefully, leave it all behind, and refer to themselves as ‘mentors’.
As it is with marketing, management, and politics, there are many who claim to be experts on leadership — making it difficult for the keen student to find a source of knowledge. Uncertain of a direction, seekers entrust their hearts to gurus who promise to enlighten the faithful with pearls of wisdom.
For such an old subject, it seems strange that so many new books proliferate annually while seminars run unabated. What is it that makes the subject of leadership so fascinating? Why is it that whenever the subject is discussed, the word ‘management’ needs to be defended and put into its own box. Why does this subject always result in the question about leaders being made or born?
The fascination with the subject of leadership is multi-pronged. There are those who know that they are leaders and go in search of new ideas, so that they can fuel their dreams; those who think that they are leaders and go in search of buzz-words, so that they can fool some of the people some of the time; those who would like to be leaders, so they study as much as they can to grow and to enter the ranks in due course. There are also the humble few who are curious about leadership and seek to understand it, so that they can become better followers.
By and large, this book is of no use to those who delude themselves. The humble could benefit from an understanding of their environment, so that they do not infuriate their leaders (and others) with ignorance. However, this book is most valuable to those who engage in leadership and are challenged by the modern world, looking for clues about how to navigate its terrain. As for those who would like to be leaders, they can use this book to learn more about what they aspire to be. It is possible that they, too, might be deluding themselves if they go in search of something about which they know little. The danger is that they might harbour delusions about the environment in which leaders must survive. Some assume that there is glamour associated with being a leader. Alas, the moment you become a leader, you will be hit with the ‘law of paradoxicality’, feeling rich and poor, liberated and opposed, free and restrained, proud and humble, popular and lonely — simultaneously.
What is a leader?
Here it is important to introduce a new thought by stating that the word ‘leader’ and its function is different from the word ‘leadership’ and its function. This means that a leader is not necessarily one who engages in leadership. Therefore, please take note of the ways in which these two words are used throughout this book. There are major differences. In fact, there are no similarities. This is explained below.
Leaders are pathmakers — those who cut a new path, with or without the help of others; for their own sake or for the sake of others; for monetary gain or otherwise; for adventure or duty; in misery or delirium.
When a leader cuts new paths, most often the outcome is tangible. On the other hand, leadership defines the framework (the condition under which paths are carved); and most often this is intangible. The principles of the tangible and intangible worlds are explored throughout this book.
If leaders are pathmakers, what is leadership? This is a difficult question. The difficulties do not lie in the answer, but rather in the question. To ask ‘what is leadership?’ poses all sorts of hurdles because it is the wrong question to be asking. The wrong question will lead to the wrong answer. After reading this book, I expect that you will realise that the question ought to be ‘why leadership?’
There is a major difference between ‘what’ and ‘why’. Hundreds of books have dealt with what leadership is. Obviously very few authors agree, otherwise so many publications would not have eventuated. In life, to find the right answer, one must ask the right question. If it were merely a question of ‘what’ then anyone who fulfils the criteria, or those seven habits, could claim to be engaging in leadership. If it were possible to agree on the definition of what leadership is, and let’s say that it is doing X, Y, and Z, then anyone who does these things could be said, erroneously, to be engaging in leadership. Surely leadership is not as superficial as fulfilling a list of criteria.
Leadership is not what is done, but why it is done. The ‘why’ penetrates to the truth behind an action. The act of giving can be unwholesome in the light of why it is done. It is in itself open to judgement until its roots are exposed, because the reasons behind an action far outweigh the worth of the action itself. It is the truth behind the action that makes it wholesome or unwholesome. Leadership cannot exist in the presence of the unwholesome, just as integrity cannot exist in the presence of corruption or deceit.
In presenting this concept through the years, it prompts people to ask for an explanation about how we can account for brutal dictators whose actions are considered to be unwholesome. Please note that such people were leaders, but they did not engage in leadership because leadership cannot exist in the presence of the unwholesome.
Not every giver is generous. Not every fighter is a warrior. Not all players are champions. Similarly, not all leaders appreciate the values of leadership.