Leadership is comprised of 3 basic tasks:
- Setting a relevant and usually inspiring vision/goal,
- Uniting people to collaborate in pursuit of that vision,
- Enabling the community that is pursuing the goal to adapt to changes that emerges along the way.
Inventing the leadership process is what took us from intelligent apes to civilisation. Language is an important invention but it alone is not enough to enable civilisation as there are many animals that have basic languages and don’t create global civilisations. Any technology requires the deployment of leadership for it to function; leadership is the fundamental invention on which all civilisation is built.
Leadership transformed our progress as a species for 3 reasons:
- It allowed us to create the future. Instead of nature randomly happening to us, through leadership we could set goals e.g. hunt those animals, build that pyramid, etc. that allowed us to transform our desires into reality. Animals cannot do this in a significant way. Without leadership there is not future to create because nobody has defined what the future should be.
- The skills and process of leadership enable people to work together despite their differences. As far as I know, Humans are the only species to work with others who are not their kind. Apes will only collaborate with those from their ‘family’. Leadership allowed us to build much larger social systems which had order of magnitude greater creative capability. Harnessing the power of millions of people working together gets things done in a big way (insert your favourite epic world wonder here). Without leadership we would not be able to work together in any significant way, we would be bound to small social groups.
- Leadership provides social systems with adaptability. This adaptability allows us to cope with unexpected changes instead of being wiped out by them. We can rapidly change the way we do things in response to changing situations if we have the right leaders in place. The vast majority of animals cannot, they are the way they are and are, therefore, much more vulnerable to natural selection. The enhanced adaptability that comes from leadership gives Humans enormous advantages in terms of natural selection. If we didn’t have leadership, our social communities couldn’t adapt to change and we would be very vulnerable to unexpected events.
When leadership fails, social systems fail and there is collapse. When leadership is strong, we are able to build a better world. Thus, we can say that the long term viability of a social system is a function of its leadership capability; the better its leaders the more likely that community is to survive and thrive.