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Producing Leaders

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nadar

This is like arguing that the function of summer is to produce more daylight, not less darkness. The key is that the function of leadership is neither to produce more leaders nor more followers. Sure, the goal of a specific person, group, or organization may be to produce more leaders, more followers, or both but the function of leadership is to lead.

As an organization successfully matures, it tends to attract more qualified people. Those associated with it tend to develop more related knowledge, their skills improve, and their effectiveness increases. Some of them may assume or be given more authority and more responsibility. A few may be seen as leaders and even fewer may move into leadership roles. Through this process, leaders emerge.

In other organizations, those in charge completely retain their authority and responsibility. The organization attracts more qualified people. Those associated with it develop more related knowledge, their skills improve, and their effectiveness increases. A few may be seen as leaders but none move into leadership roles. Those roles are filled and no new leadership roles are to be created.

The goal of some people, groups, or organizations may be to increase the number of people associated with the enterprise. More typically, the goal is to attract and retain the optimal number of people required to assure the success of the enterprise, and no more. The point is that the people are needed to enable the enterprise’s success. They aren’t needed to “follow” anyone. The idea of attracting “followers” is a non-sequitur.

The conclusion is that the activities of a leader may or may not “produce” more leaders. Whether the outcome is an increase in the number of leaders is only important if producing leaders is the goal of the enterprise. Otherwise, it is unrelated to leadership or to the effectiveness of the leaders. Nadar may have simply posited producing followers as a straw man in the interest of asserting that leadership produces leaders but whatever the reason, the assertion fails. Leadership produces leaders no more than summer increases daylight. Conditions that merely co-exist should not be confused with cause and effect.

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