Friday, May 24, 2013

Was Jan de Jong a Leader?

I've had cause to consider the concept of leadership given I'm applying for jobs that require applicants to possess and be able to demonstrate their leadership abilities. This resulted in my researching, consulting and contemplating the issue, with the end result being an article that is being published in various publications.

Was Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan a leader?

The first question to ask is, what is a leader or leadership?

Leadership is many things, but its most striking quality is that it is an ambiguous concept. To paraphrase the father of stress research, Hans Selye, everybody knows what leadership, is but nobody really knows.

Leadership is often associated with inspiring other people. The question becomes, what is inspiration? To inspire is to fill another with the urge to do or feel something? Did De Jong fill us with the urge to do or feel something?

In an organisational setting, inspire is defined in the context of getting the job done. Leaders inspire their personnel to get the job done. In my article, I argue that the necessity for a leader to inspire their personnel to get the job done reflects poorly on the people, systems and structures of the organisation to get the job done.

Did De Jong inspire me to be better at my jujutsu? To progress in the grading system? To be a better teacher? No. I was self-motivated. Did he inspire my contemporaries or even my instructors? Probably not. They were also self-motivated.

Business guru Peter Drucker said that it is easy to identify leaders, they are the ones with followers. Did De Jong have followers? What are followers?

Followers are an adherent or devotee of a particular person, cause, or activity. De Jong definitely had followers. Many people, including myself, were devoted to the man. He definitely inspired loyalty.
Based on leaders being defined by followers, De Jong was a leader. We now need to reflect on those implications. Would we have continued with jujutsu with or without De Jong's leadership? I suspect we would have for a variety of reasons.
Did De Jong lead? De Jong did what he did because he enjoyed what he was doing. He had no vision, and vision is another attribute that is often used to define a leader. When De Jong passed away, all of the senior instructors went their own way to form their own schools. There was a devotion to him personally, not to the school nor to any vision.
This then leads to the interesting debate concerning creating followers for the sake of creating followers. Mahatma Ghandi created followers to liberate India. Creating followers with no vision ...?
This post is no condemnation of the man I was devoted to. Rather, it is a meditation on the concept of leadership and what it means to lead.

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