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Leadership Cause and Effect

“Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve.” — Tom Landry

This brings to mind “manipulation” and “brainwashing.” Sure, it also brings to mind “parenting” and “management;” but it hardly brings to mind “leadership.” Fred Smith proposed a softer version of the idea when he said, “Leadership is getting people to work for you when they are not obligated,” and Dwight D. Eisenhower put forth a similar idea with this definition, “Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

The notion is that leadership is characterized by one person enticing or motivating someone else to do something that he would not otherwise do were it not for “leadership.” The question is whether the effect requires the cause Several more obvious causes are readily available. People do things they might otherwise not do because it’s their job, they are getting paid, they are afraid not to do it, they don’t want to disappoint a parent or perhaps the Coach, everyone else is doing it, or they determine it is in their best interest. The leader may be able to use one of these causes; but to equate such use with leadership is not reasonable, since anyone who has control of the cause can use it at will. It would be like arguing that holding a gun makes one a marksman.

This is a good time to remember Ockham’s Razor. Paul Vincent, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, points out, “Ockham’s Razor … never allows us to deny putative entities; at best it allows us to refrain from positing them in the absence of known compelling reasons for doing so.” Since there are numerous and quite obvious reasons why people frequently do things they might not otherwise do, positing “leadership” as the cause is unnecessary. It may be attributable to leadership but used in that way, leadership is little more than one of Ockham’s putative entities.

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