Yesterday, I read a post on LinkedIn which has since been taken down (though thanks Google cache!). Though you can read the entire post in the linked, cached version of the page, a portion of the content can be found here:

I know I fired this person, but I considered that merely a technical matter. I thought we agreed it was the best option for all involved, allowing him to grow professionally elsewhere. It never crossed my mind that he had been FIRED. We just reached the end of our partnership, for now. Time to move on for both of us.

Emphasis mine.

When it comes to topics about running a business, leadership, team dynamics, and all of that, I leave that stuff to be covered elsewhere – this is not the blog for it; however, there are a couple of aspects of leadership and running a business that keep cropping up and that are of interest to me.

And since there are a many people who work in the WordPress Development Community are freelancers, self-employed, or have some type of entrepreneurial venture – be it full-time or part-time – it seems like it’s worth covering even if it’s just in a single post.

To be clear, it’s not that I’m an expert or even an authority on the topic.

Hardly.

But I, like many, have thoughts on some of the material that I read, and figured it may be worth sharing from time-to-time.

The Principles and Advice of Leadership

I admit that I’m flirting with committing a hasty generalization by taking the quote that’s mentioned above and using it to try to make a point.

I know there are a lot of great leaders out there – I know that I’m not alone when it comes it listening to various podcast on the subject – and many of them are too busy running their companies or whatever to occasionally blog (let alone blog daily, am I right? :).

To, to be clear, the point of linking to the article above is not to try to provide an observation about a particular leader or a particular set of leaders, but about leadership in general.

Define Leadership (You Know It When You See It)

I have this theory that if you were to line up 10 people and ask each of them to give a definition of leadership, you’d probably get seven or eight different answers.

The official definition is:

the action of leading a group of people or an organization.

But then we’re just left punting the question to “what does it mean to lead?” And so I digress.

Anyway, all of this to say that I think a lot of people like to talk about leadership even if they aren’t really able to give a clear definition as to what it is. Even more so, I think that we all have an innate ability to identify both good and bad leadership when we see it, even if we aren’t able to describe it before hand.

In short, this isn’t to say that we don’t all have our own definitions – it’s to say that I’m not convinced that we all have the same definition, but we know what we consider to be good leaders bad leaders.

But maybe that’s just me and I’m clearly willing to admit that.

There Is No Prescription

But here’s what I take issue with: There are a lot of blogs, podcasts, and conferences out there that are focused on leadership. They invite us in to listen, participate, and learn from people who have been successful in their respective industries so that we may become more successful in whatever it is that we’re doing.

And though I believe there are some principles that transcend industries, I don’t think it’s necessarily true that all leaders have advice that’s relevant for everyone.

Principles are truths that transcend industries and that will work within the context of any company, team, and so on whereas advice is a person’s opinion of what works based on their experience in their context.

That is, I don’t think that advice that all leaders offer is actually applicable to the rest of us. Which, of course, means that some of the things that they are sharing aren’t really principles.

Yet, I can’t help but feel that the Internet is creating this culture where leaders – be it self-proclaimed leaders, or leaders are exactly that based on their experience, their insight, and so on – are being elevated and celebrated regardless of if their advice is actually good.

That is to say, we have all of these sites, podcasts, networks, blogs, etc., that give people a platform on which to share their ideas and opinions under the banner of leadership without knowing if it’s actually good advice.

The problem with this, of course, is that there are some people who genuinely want to be good leaders, build good companies, do quality work, and are going to be hanging on the words of successful people more than they  probably should.

Rather than provide a little bit more context for how and/or why someone is worth listening to (be it in their industry, in various industries, or elsewhere), certain sites take people who appear to have significance based on some arbitrary metric (like followers or likes, for example) and elevate them above other people who are potentially more insightful.

Leadership Is Dead, Long Live Leadership

All of the above probably sounds like I’m calling for some type of organization or vetting process on who should be able to publish and who shouldn’t.

But that’s not it – I support an open, unregulated Internet and I recognize that I wouldn’t be able to share my opinions here anymore than others are able to share their thoughts elsewhere if there was some type of vetting process who should be able to publish and who should not.

When I see posts like what I’ve quoted above, it just helps to reinforce that point and that idea.

I don’t have any particular conclusion to this and I recognize that this has likely been more incoherent ramblings than anything else, but if I had to summarize it in someway, I’d leave it at this:

I’m getting a bit jaded with all of the leadership talk that’s out there because it’s not contextualized. Instead, it’s generalized as if it’s applicable to everyone, and everyone who is considered a leader by some type of crowd is worth listening to and I don’t believe that’s true.

I don’t know if this is just me, or if this is something that others have noticed, too. But this is what I’ve noticed, as least as of late, and it’s something that’s worth mentioning if for no other reason that to remind myself to take caution when reading advice from those who are considered to be influential leaders.

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Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. As I’m sure most people are aware there is a difference between leadership and managing people. I also think you need different types of leadership depending on the people/person you are providing leadership for, even in the same team. For example if you have a team with both junior and senior devs then the senior devs probably need a different level of leadership than the junior ones. I also believe that different industries need different types of leadership. So I think you point about requiring context is a good one.

    Leadership, in my opinion, is not a one size fits all activity.

    • Leadership, in my opinion, is not a one size fits all activity.

      Exactly. And I think most people get this, but there’s something odd going on in culture where I feel like the opposite is being pushed a little bit, as well.

  2. Good article, leadership can be tied to motivation also. How do I motivate/inspire people? But I think it is more than that, how do I earn (and keep) trust? What actions am I doing that deserve trust? Motivation comes down to 4 things: Fear, Reward, Respect, and Conviction. As harsh as that sounds, it is true. Bad leaders are feared, Good leaders are respected, Great leaders aren’t called leaders. I’m paraphrasing someone else, but leading a project technically, is not the same as leading a team. I think I may expand on this on my blog, thanks for the inspiration. :-)
    -a humble follower of your blog- :-)

    • I’m paraphrasing someone else, but leading a project technically, is not the same as leading a team. I think I may expand on this on my blog, thanks for the inspiration. :-)

      Let me know when you post it, I’d love to read it. Interested! :)

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