The Mystery of Leadership - Adriaan Bekman - ebook

The Mystery of Leadership ebook

Adriaan Bekman



Leadership is a mystery, a mystery of community. It is connected with an­cient questions about our origins, our soul, our freedom or intended, moral questions. Leadership touches the heart of existence. It is an existential question, an existential process in which we can stand up as man. Each of us, who wants to, can be part of the leadership process. We aim at contributing to a more fundamental approach to leadership that provides the reference for everyone who wants to participate in the leadership. It describes the leadership forces working in the organized community as they can help us to search for and strive "towards doing the good." It also can provide some guidance to all those students who not only want to master a profession but also want to show moral leadership in that profession.

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Translated from Dutch to English

by Els Klijnsma

My leadership motto

Doing the good in freedom

Out of love towards others

In respect for all that is.

Adriaan Bekman

For my IMO colleagues

Table of contents


Chapter 1: The nature of leadership

Chapter 2: The leadership approach

Chapter 3: The leadership hypothesis

Chapter 4: The history of leadership

Chapter 5: Leadership qualities

Chapter 6: Leadership Community

Chapter 7: Leadership practice

Chapter 8: Leadership attitude

Chapter 9: The future of leadership



Leadership is a fascinating theme full of secrets. There are numerous publications on this subject with so many interesting approaches but I maintain the opinion that leadership is still a secret, a mystery. In years of research into leadership, in which I worked with many leaders on the topic of their leadership, hardly ever a theory was mentioned but every leader had a completely personal point of view with regards to his or her leadership.

I also noticed that authors who have written about leadership, famous ones like Covey or Kotter but also more unknown authors, have based their leadership theory or model on a personally chosen starting point such as trust or communication between leadership giver and leadership taker, or ways to create added value and achieve results, or changes and initiatives to realize innovations, or the difference between being a manager and being a leader. Leadership, I concluded, is based on acquired personal capital. You can only lead yourself and others on the basis of what you have acquired yourself and you can only describe it by means of a starting point chosen by yourself, which ultimately leads to a specific leadership model.

This could mean that it is not worthwhile to write another book about leadership itself, which ends in a model or theory. However, I have noticed that there is a clear link between the proper functioning of an organization as a community and good leadership. Moreover, there is no recipe to be found which naturally leads to the good result. Entirely different ways of exerted leadership in different types of organizations can succeed or fail.

All this has meant that at first I saw leadership as a process in the organization to lead work and development processes, much more than a model or theory of leadership that focuses on the performance of the leader. Just as there are many taxi drivers that drive taxis in many places in the world and do this in different ways and there are many theories to be invented about the taxi ride, there are also different leadership processes in various organizations in the world and there are leaders who do this in their own ways.

It has also gradually become clear to me that leadership has everything to do with the moral questions that we must ask ourselves today. Leadership is a predisposing power at work; it is a force that works in the community. Leadership has to do with meaningful questions, the ‘why question’ has to be asked and these questions we can no longer hand over to the single leader who destines our fate. We are all part of leadership today.

This idea has made me perceive far more closely the dimensions of a leadership process and of the moral character of leadership that appear in organizations of a completely different nature, with different tasks and in many countries in the world, of different cultures and places in society. So I want to report in this book on the leadership issue in the following manner.

First, I noticed that leadership is traditionally shown in traditional communities such as families or nations or religions and that today it is shown in organized contexts in which we work and often also live.

In the natural community leadership is bound to the fixed laws of nature as natural succession of son to father or of daughter to mother. The leadership pursues there to continue the natural community with its traditions and customs. In contrast, the organized community leadership is rather connected with management and functional tasks and basically everybody can come into this leadership by taking part in the leadership process of the organization. Moreover, the organized community is in permanent change. We will focus on this distinction between the natural leadership process and the organized leadership process in Chapter 1.

The question is how we can investigate leadership as we recognize that it is still a mystery and we do not know exactly how it works. We have come on to two research paths that have to do with our ways of thinking. The first way is the way of the cause-effect logic and the purpose-means thinking, a thinking that looks at the patterns of things, finding an explanation of the meaning of being, as it also wants to be a basis for creating our own things. This road leads to theories and models. The other way we call thinking in balanced multi-dimensional realities. This is an inter-subjective way that is appropriate for the study of our own social creations, especially of anything that has to do with the organized life we lead today. This thinking is a creative thinking that makes sense of how things appear to us.

We examine leadership using the balanced multi-dimensional reality thinking. We will work this out in Chapter 2.

Then I noticed that leadership in organizations functions well as a process when three conditions are met.

The first condition is that the finally responsible person (s) has an inspired vision on the fortunes of the organization, a vision that is connected to the core task of this organization. This vision is connected to values which are largely shared in the community population and which correspond to what is pursued in its surroundings.

The second condition is that the managers of the organization are both able to fulfil their functional, professional responsibility and are willing and able to work together when it comes to changes and innovations.

The third condition is that the professionals of the organization are focused on their customers and serve them in their own way with specific products and services and that they do constantly improve their own work process and to that end are in a constant learning attitude.

If these three conditions come together, when this is the inspiring vision of the top related to the horizontal co-operative practices of the managers, and also connected to the professionals who make up the core of the client process, then these organizations thrive. If they do not, then the organization has serious problems to find the next steps in its existence. In Chapter 3 we will examine this in more depth.

When we look at the history of leadership during the many centuries that mankind has lived in a community context and later in an organized context, we see three archetypes of leadership that dominate the community context and destine the fate of the community. These three archetypes appearing in the course of time we still see at work in the leadership process today.

The first archetype is that of the initiate leader who with clairvoyance can observe the fate of the community, see its future and determine the sense of community life.

A second archetype has originated from the functional hierarchical relationships in which we live in today’s social life. This has evolved today into a management system that controls all the contexts in which we live and work.

A third archetype is a new type that is socially emerging in organizations. That is the personal leadership of everyone. Anyone can participate in the leadership, positioned between customer and supplier, owner and co-workers / employees. The world is becoming more complex so that everyone who participates in it has to show leadership on the spot, in the process, in the situation where he or she is acting.

These three archetypes of leadership are today at work in our organized life. They will be discussed in Chapter 4.

Leadership as a process emerges out of fundamental polarities that hold the organization as a living organism. The leadership handles these polarities and that needs different leadership qualities. We describe in Chapter 5 four-leadership qualities connected to the horizontal leadership process.

Leadership is connected to community. When we focus on community and explore the communities of entirely different natures that we can see today, we can also come closer to the different dimensions of leadership as they can manifest themselves in the community. We will do this in Chapter 6.

Now we can address the perception of how the leadership practice today takes place. There is to my understanding a large gap between what we think about how leadership works that is shown in all those lovely management theories, and everyday practice in which leadership works or not and is displayed. A variety of practical situations can show this. We will have to come urgently to a more fundamental vision on leadership in the broad social organized context to recalibrate our views on leadership, take it beyond the often simple strongman images or complex constructs such as a matrix construct that leadership must work in. This is what we will explore in Chapter 7.

A foothold in the research of leadership is to focus on the question of what moral attitude radiates our leaders. In it we find something that all times and all cultures have in common. How to show those qualities in the organized community and how are they accessible to me as a leader. That’s about leadership-soul schooling. We will explore this in Chapter 8.

This leads us finally to the question of the future of leadership. What can that future of leadership look like? In what direction will leadership develop? It contains dimensions such as the organized community, sense-making, creating process, basic leadership values. Finally, we summarize all this together in eight tips. We will do this in Chapter 9.

With this study we aim at contributing to a more fundamental approach to leadership that provides the reference for everyone who wants to participate in the leadership. This leads to focus on leadership as a community process and leadership as a moral task for everyone. This vision brings together the leadership forces working in the organized community as they can help us to search for and strive “towards doing the good.” This vision also can provide some guidance to all those students who not only want to master a profession but also want to show moral leadership in that profession. That will give us, humanity, a future.

Chapter 1

The nature of leadership

Leadership and community are two sides of the same coin. Historically we see the formation of natural communities. Naturally family generations continue. There are families and communities with a common identity and culture and they make them visible to the outside world. A fascinating world of people alive and living in local communities has emerged in the course of the centuries. The special feature of the natural community is that it allows people’s identity and culture to be transferred to future generations. We can assume that these creations of natural origin carry the meaning of their existence in itself as evidence. As an oak tree is an oak and will not be a beech, a member of a nation of people will not be a member of any other nation.

In order to operate these natural communities traditionally leadership roles must be taken up in these communities by community members and are also passed on by heredity. Thus, in the distant past we first of all see the priest / leader appear who connects the invisible world with the visible world of the community. The fate of the community is in the hands of the priest and he destines the fate of the community and of the individual. Anyone who cannot meet the identity and culture of the community runs the risk of being expelled.

These traditional natural communities were strongly associated with the cosmic cycles and with worlds of God’s and they made sacrifices to propitiate these worlds. The priest / leader was on another level of being, on the level of the initiate, the clairvoyant. That meant a hierarchical level, standing above the community in solitude.

After the human society in the Greco-Roman epoch ‘came more to earth’, and gradually a gap arose between the community and the invisible world, leadership in the community was laid in several hands. There were mundane roles such as the king, the healer / doctor, the master, the army commander, the mayor, the entrepreneur, the philosopher, the official. The leadership became, in addition to its hierarchical relationship with the community, a functional relationship. For the different community processes there were specific leaders with their own competencies. These roles were transferred to new generations along hereditary lines. There were leadership families who started to control part of the community. This eventually resulted in ecclesiastical and secular groups, which held power over specific dimensions of human life and the human community. The final result is a democratic society where political power is shared and where the entrepreneurial power is embedded in organized associations that produce and consume.

Since we are now, after several centuries of developing a global economy, all at the service of all, and this service takes place under almost all circumstances between people, people of different natural origins, in different social roles, are creating a different kind of leadership, which we call the personal leadership. Anyone can get access to leadership. It is not only determined by heredity (we still have a hereditary successor to the throne), it is not only determined by the leadership of political / economic systems (we still have party bosses and big entrepreneurs), but it is also determined by each person who participates as a customer in the world economy, as an owner, a consumer, a professional, a supplier, a citizen.

We live not only in natural connections like family, nation, religion, but today we live especially in organized associations in a global economy and this as a consumer / customer and as an employee. From dawn to dusk, from young to old, we are included in this global context and involved in it with our own roles and positions.

Where a dime was never a quarter in the natural context, this is possible in the organized context.

In this regard, in the organized community we still see the reflection of the old hierarchical / functional leadership represented in a sense by the top / initiate / CEO who determines the fate of the community. Leadership and community are also represented as a management system and the management system defines how we function. At the same time now everyone is part of a variety of communities and networks and performs in them showing self-leadership. This complex social and personal life asks from us a personal leadership. It is no longer sufficient to be guided by the higher leadership powers or management system, but it is necessary to take responsibility for the choices and decisions you make, the roles that you play, the moral quality of your performance in it, the workings of your deeds.

It can allow us to realize three old ideals of the community on a personal level and achieve them between us:

The ideal of freedom, which is “I myself give a destination to my own life,”

The ideal of equality, which is’ we do it together, work together and get into dialogue within equal rights and duties “

The ideal of fraternity, which is’ we serve others and are served by others.”

We are ready for a thorough revision of our usual images of leadership.

We see not only the great leader that brings the community to its destination, we also see the management system in which we all operate and in which we must learn to manage our existence. We see now and in the future the personal leadership work worldwide where people work together and live in the two community types where hitherto they could not acquire a leadership role and significance. Society will thus, apart from the old vertical foundation of leadership and community, create a horizontal foundation of leadership and community to respond to the grandiose ability of people to act out personal leadership in their own lives and together with others.

Chapter 2

The leadership approach

Leadership is an issue that is beyond our logical way of reasoning. We will have to consider how we want to approach this mystery of leadership.