Elements of Leadership
presented by Richard Amyx
Birmingham LOTS, February 24, 2001
Panhandle Mensa (Amarillo) Leadership Roundtable Seminar, March 24, 2001
I. Why am I doing this?
  • Evidence of poor leadership at all levels, not just in Mensa, but in employment, local government, and on up to the presidency, where the candidates in the last election were so indistinguishable that voters couldn't make up their minds.
  • In all the Mensa material pertaining to Leadership Development Workshops, the word leadership is mentioned only once--in the suggested activity of a leadership retreat, but no program for a leadership retreat is given.  All the LDW activities pertain to getting or filling out forms, instructions how to contact the office, etc.; to quote Meredy, "They're teaching you how to be followers, not leaders.
Goal for this session:  consciousness raising.
  • For people who are now holding leadership positions or those who plan on holding leadership positions.
  • To help all discern among candidates for leadership positions at all levels in Mensa.
III. Methodology.
  • Not a lecture.
  • Work together to develop a list of characteristics of leaders and leadership.
  • Discuss the principal items on the list.
IV. History.
  • Leadership has been a concern of man from earliest recorded history; discussion of it can be found in the Upanishads, the Bible, and the Torah.
  • Man is a social animal.  In order for human society to succeed at all levels, we must have good leadership in our activities.
  • Currently there are more theories of leadership than you can count; it's become a separate academic discipline.  There's way too much theory even to broach theory in a short presentation (we'll stay practical).
  • Principles of leadership seem to range in number from 4 to 21 (according to what I saw).
V. Interactive session--develop list of characteristics of leaders and leadership.
  • Like brainstorming.  No judgments; anything mentioned goes on the list.
VI. Discussion of three primary characteristics of leaders.
  • Vision.

  • Vision is the first critical dimension of effective leadership.  Without vision, there is little or no sense of purpose in an organization.  Efforts drift aimlessly as people struggle for meaning.  The loss of purpose leads to a lack of coordination among the work units of an organization and divisive infighting among executives.

    Mensa has a vision in its purposes, stated in Section I.A. of The Constitution of Mensa:  Mensa's purposes are to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research in the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members. 

  • Decision-making.

  • A good leader must be able to make decisions and stick to them.  Once you have your priorities straight, making decisions is simple.  Keeping the vision in mind helps set the priorities; good decision-making follows.
  • Listening/communicating.

  • Listening is one of the hardest activities to accomplish well. It does not matter if it is a student listening to a lecture, a child listening to his parents, or an employee listening to his boss, most people listen combatively. They are listening solely with the intent to make a rebuttal and make the other party "understand their point of view."
    They are not listening with the intent of understanding; they're just waiting for their turn to speak.  (In Mensa, a dialog is defined as the intersection of two monologues.)
    Additional notes.
    • "So, we, largely drawn from social science, educational, and youth serving community, are people generally employed in nonprofit organizations, who like to define leadership as the ability of an individual to influence the values, attitudes, beliefs, and actions of others by working with and through them in order to achieve the organization's mission and purpose."

    • http://www.fgse.nova.edu/cyfs/guides/leadership_one/main.html
    • With respect to volunteers:  we cannot place performance requirements on volunteers.  The best we can do is influence them to elicit their voluntary cooperation.
    • Leadership ¹ power; leadership = influence.
    • Three critical errors of leadership.

    • http://www.umkc.edu/cad/nade/nadedocs/leadprin.htm
    • Caution about charismatic leadership.

    • http://management.canberra.edu.au/lectures/adminstudies/sem972/unit4207/Leadership.html
    • Leadership is as much art as science.  Leadership skills can be improved, but there has to be some talent there to start with.
    • A leader must be comfortable with his or her own style.

    • http://www.fgse.nova.edu/cyfs/guides/leadership_one/main.html
    • Leaders have to be broad rather than narrow people; they should be well-read and well-traveled.  A leader has to be a big-picture person rather than a detail person.
    • Some of the most important attributes of leader effectiveness are: a) personal knowledge, b) knowledge based on content, c) problem-solving ability, d) ability to critically analyze and develop visions for the future, e) effective communication skills, f) ability to translate visions into goals, g) risk-taking ability, h) good sense of judgment, I) flexibility, and j) willingness to work within an organization as a team member.  The difficulty in defining leadership and extricating the most important attributes lies in the uniqueness of each individual leader.

    • http://www.fgse.nova.edu/cyfs/guides/leadership_one/main.html
  • The boss vs. the leader.
      The Boss
      Drives people
      Relies upon authority
      Says "I"
      Instills fear
      Says "Go!"
      Makes work a drudgery
      The Leader
      Guides people
      Relies upon cooperation
      Says "We"
      Inspires enthusiasm
      Says "Let's go!"
      Makes work interesting
    • Leadership principles from Peter Drucker.  Especially:
      • The business of management (AMC) is to make Mensa more Mensa-like, not to make Mensa more business-like.
      • Management is a social function and has mostly to do with people, not with things and procedures.
      • An organization begins to die the day it begins to be run for the benefit of the insiders (the AMC) and not for the benefit of the outsiders (the members).
      • Know the value of planned abandonment.

      • Decide what not to do.  Drucker says, "Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all."  (burgeoning MSB's; quasilegal ASIE's)
    And in closing.
    • Read leadership principles from the Vidbook site.  This comes the closest I've seen to a statement of leadership principles that matches my own.  In short:  to lead is to serve.

    • http://www.learn-personal-development.com/self-esteem-motivation/leadership-principles/
    • Mensa is a roundtable society.  We take turns in leadership positions as stewards of the public trust.
    • In Mensa, a person becomes a VIP. . .only if his fellow members regard him as such.  Conditioned by other hierarchies, we create our own stars, our own heroes.  If they have a certain status and are treated with a certain deference, it is because we freely accord them that status by our behavior.  It does not come automatically with the job.  Rare indeed is the member with a job title at any level of the organization who imagines his position to be one of power.  Rather, the title. . .simply indicates the amount and kind of work its holder has agreed to do for the organization--nothing more. . . .

    •   --Meredy Amyx ("Hierarchy and Power", Bulletin #228, July/August, 1979)
    • Wear the mantle of authority lightly about your shoulders.
    All the links.

    Following is a list of all the web sites I visited pertaining to leadership that had something of interest on them.  Obviously, some are the ones previously cited; others served as background without any quotes being lifted directly.  Many of them have bibliography lists, if you want to pursue the subject further.