Giving and receiving leadership

Organisations and leadership depend on each other. Organisations are both givers and receivers of leadership. For organisations to provide leadership outwardly, they need to receive leadership from managers (to improve, grasp opportunities and overcome problems). To receive this leadership from managers, they need to give appropriately to managers (‘give’ in the sense of display, clarify, permit and resource). The organisation’s relationship with its managers’ leadership is thus symbiotic.

When it comes to improvement, there is a virtuous circle at work. An organisation can help improve managers’ leadership, and managers in turn can improve the organisation in ways that make the managers’ leadership improvement possible. Organisations can then provide leadership to the business, which in turn can give leadership to its sector and to all its stakeholders (as shown in Figure 1).

Figure 1: Giving and receiving leadership


The application of leadership is often left unspecified by the organisation. In other words, it is generally assumed that, once developed, managers (acting as leaders) will be free to choose where and how to focus their leadership endeavour. Little thought may be given to the various groups who might be on the receiving end of leadership, how they might benefit, let alone how they might be involved in, and contribute to, the overall leadership process and its success for the wider organisation.

Some fluidity is expected, even desirable. Not all needs can be predicted and specified. Managers have to be free to respond to events as they judge appropriate. But the contention here is that organisations can generally do more to make it clear to managers what the organisation’s need for leadership is.

Leadership is not exercised in a vacuum. There are other parties to the process, including internal and external customers, and not forgetting followers. People, and even things in the system, are involved in giving or receiving leadership.