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Read our summary of “Leadership Without Easy Answers” and find out the role and significance of authority and the need for change and adaptation.
About Ronald A. Heifetz
Ronald A. Heifetz is an author and the founder of Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership.
“Leadership Without Easy Answers Summary”
If you have educated yourself about leadership, you surely know the “great man” theory.
In case you do not, the “great man” theory argues that leaders are more heroic than other people and that their internal qualities and characteristics enable them to shape events however they see fit.
However, this theory, although a dominant philosophy, oversimplifies leadership.
Another theory that you may know about is the contrasting one, according to which events shape the leaders that people need, using political and social forces.
This theory is not entirely exact as well.
Then, what would be a more grounded take on leadership?
Simple: just like everything else, there is no single definition of a leader because a leader’s role is contextual.
In other words, the leader’s behavior and governing style should depend on the situation that he is facing.
This makes sense – the whole world functions adapting to constant change in the environment. So, leaders should be able to assume different roles at different times as well.
Now, it is not rare that theorists discuss leadership in a way that supposes that it does not involve values.
This is yet another mistake.
Values have a significant and inseparable part of good leadership.
By letting you become a leader, your community has given you “legitimate authority.” It is only natural that you need to comment on issues, and practice your influence over them.
Now, as we said, you have to be able to change, but also you will have to make your community adapt as well.
It will not be an easy task since just like a living organism, a social system seeks equilibrium and tries to keep the status quo.
Yes, adaptation and change are necessary for the long-term survival, but no one can say it is not stressful.
Key Lessons from “Leadership Without Easy Answers”
1. Categories of Events that Can Put a Society out of Balance
2. Problems that Arise when People Need to Change
3. Seeking Authority
Categories of Events that Can Put a Society out of Balance
- Common problems
- Problems that demand new insights of the society
- A fundamental societal crisis
Problems that Arise when People Need to Change
- People may use their “avoidance mechanisms” to resist change because they do not understand the need for it.
- People may surrender their autonomy when they feel that they have to be responsible, and depend on you more in times of crisis.
Humans always form organizations and groups: from families to municipalities, to entire countries.
Every organization incorporates “dominance and deference” patterns, which create the social structure of authority.
A small group usually picks a leader and then “orients itself in relation” to that person, which gives the leader authority, or “conferred power to perform a service.”
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“Leadership Without Easy Answers” QuotesInstead of looking for saviors, we should be calling for leadership that will challege us to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions – problems that requires us to learn new ways. Click To Tweet If we assume that leadership must not only meet the needs of followers but also must elevate them, we render a different judgment. Hitler wielded power, but he did not lead. Click To Tweet Dominance relationships are based on coercion or habitual deference; authority relationships are voluntary and conscious. In reality, however, these types of power relations often overlap. Click To Tweet In the midst of crisis, the first priority is to evaluate the level of social distress, and, if it is too high, take action to bring it into a productive range. Click To Tweet When we do elect activists, we want them to change the thinking and behavior of other people, rarely our own. Click To Tweet