November 22, 2005

Lifeboat leader

Yesterday the participants on the Leadership and Excellence module took part in an exercise named 'Lifeboat Leader'. They worked in groups of 4–6 and the scenario was a cruise ship that was expected to sink in just over an hour. Lifeboats were plentiful and the task was to select one from 6 people the group would prefer as their leader. The groups had to select a second choice as well. They were given short biographies of the candidates for leader and based on this information they had to make their choices.

I thought that the outcome was most interesting. Three of the four groups chose candidate A and the fourth group chose candidate B. This is not a question of right or wrong choices. The needs of the members of the fourth group were different to those of the other three groups, based on their expectations of a leader in that particular situation.

What are the implications of this for the practice of leadership?

If a leader is appointed to lead a group rather than be elected by the group as leader, the appointee should be conscious of the needs of the people following to ensure maximum influence towards the achievement of the goup's (leader's) goals.

Candidate B was second choice as leader for one of the groups but last choice for another. Therefore, if you find yourself in a position of leadership in which you would be the least natural choice of leader for the people you are intending to lead, there is some work to do to develop a positive influence in your group. On the other side of the coin, if the appointed leader remains blissfully unaware of the needs of the group, what is the probablilty of the group performing well?

This exercise was conducted as part of a study of what is leadership. Definition of leadership to follow tomorrow's presentations.

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