Andy Muench ?departments.? It was both extremely exciting and extremely challenging to monitor, direct, and coordinate the many different logistical ?products? and deliver them in a complete ?package? to the soldiers who depended on them. The logistical ?packages? needed to be delivered on time and with the right mix of supplies to meet the specific needs of the people on the DMZ. Our guiding catch phrase and goal for delivering the logistic packages was ?on-time, on-target.? I was a young lieutenant and at times I experienced frustration and ?growing pains.? In those trying times, I would often turn to my boss for help on leadership issues. He would give me the necessary advice and always close his comments with the phrase ?Leadership is leadership is leadership.? It was his signature phrase that he used quite frequently. To be quite honest, it meant nothing to me at that time. It sounded like meaningless gibberish rather than something insightful about the meaning or essence of leadership.
But looking back, I think I have solved his riddle. He was reinforcing a belief that I now share and have experienced myself. I will revisit this riddle later in this section.
A Definition of Effective Leadership When discussing the question, ? What is leadership??, I think it is important to begin by establishing a short definition of leadership and to build upon that definition through discussion. Once a sound definition is established, then we can effectively discuss which leadership traits distinguish successful, effective leadership from unsuccessful, ineffective leadership. In my experience here at MIT Sloan, I have heard many definitions of leadership both in structured classroom discussions and in personal conversations. I must admit I have been quite dissatisfied with most of the definitions I have heard from my peers and my professors.
During my time here at MIT Sloan, I have identified two common mistakes that people make when defining leadership. The first mistake people make when defining leadership is to define essential traits that a person must have in order to be an effective leader rather than clearly defining leadership itself. People tend to use words and phrases like ?moral courage? and ?selfless service? when trying to define leadership. While I agree these are essential traits of an effective leader, I do not believe they define leadership itself.
The second mistake I believe people make when developing a universal definition of leadership is to define the positive peripheral results of effective leadership rather than leadership itself. An example of this mistake, in my opinion, occurred this week in class when a peer defined leadership as ??ensuring the morale and well being of their people.? Again, I agree that the above is a positive result of effective leadership, but it is still not a universal definition that captures the essence of leadership.