Williams’ Distinction between Real and Counterfeit Leadership

… a core concept in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109

WilliamsBookConcept description

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:

  1. Real leadership gets people to face reality
  2. Real leadership engages the group to do adaptive work
  3. Real leadership involves the pursuit of insight and wisdom
  4. 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.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

The Study of Leadership and Communication (core topic) in Leadership Skills and Atlas 109.

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.