Williams’ Distinction between Real and Counterfeit Leadership
In his book, Real Leadership – Helping People and Organizations Face Their Toughest Challenges, Dean Williams sets out the features of real leadership and contrasts them with the features of counterfeit leadership.
Features of real leadership
According to Williams:
- Real leadership gets people to face reality
- Real leadership engages the group to do adaptive work
- Real leadership involves the pursuit of insight and wisdom
- Real leadership is the willingness to be responsible
Signals of counterfeit leadership
After examining a series of cases Williams observes that “a pattern begins to emerge that can provide vital signals that one is in the ‘danger zone’ and might be providing counterfeit leadership.” These primary indicators are
- a preoccupation with dominance,
- a failure to engage the group and its various subfactions in figuring out and facing the real work of progress,
- an unwillingness to explore beyond one’s comfort zone to find a solution, and
- the conviction that you alone have “the truth.”
Williams summarized the distinction as follows:
The real leader
Gets people to face reality as it pertains to their condition, threats, and opportunities
Mobilizes the group to do adaptive work and adjust their values, habits, practices, and priorities
Pursues the needed insight and wisdom to lead
Takes responsibility for being the source of movement
The counterfeit leader
Places an excessive emphasis on getting people to follow
Is preoccupied with dominance as a control mechanism
Fails to fully engage the group and its many factions
Is unwilling to look for solutions beyond one’s comfort zone and the prevailing group paradigm
Holds the conviction that the leader alone has the truth and knows the way forward
Source: Chapter 1 in Williams, Dean, Real Leadership – Helping People and Organizations Face Their Toughest Challenges, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2005.
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Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 9 January 2016.
Image: Williams book, at http://www.amazon.com/Real-Leadership-Organizations-Toughest-Challenges/dp/1576753433, accessed 7 January 2016.