The presentation by Open Systems owner Michael Bertini centered around leadership--not surprising since he is studying for a doctorate in entrepreneurial leadership.

"What is it?" someone asked, "that makes the difference between someone who can plan, but not execute, who can't pull the trigger?"

That brought an onslaught of theories during the question-and-answer part of the session at the annual conference of the Information Technology Alliance, an accounting user and networking group. Someone suggested that companies that encourage employees to assume leadership roles nurture the ability to initiate. Another said that people are born with it.

As the person who raised the question, I would like to explain it origin.

There are many examples of leaders who can plan, but not execute. The northern Civil War General George B. McClellan could inspire men, drill forces, and organized logistics. He could put an army together. But he had trouble initiating action. President Abraham Lincoln was quoted as saying McClellan had a case of "the slows." McClellan was convinced that he was always outnumbered by Southern opponents who never came close to the strength of his troops. He was well armed with excuses. His fear of failure hampered his ability to act. Leaders act.

What moves people past fear of failure? That's a question that goes beyond leadership into performance of all kinds: musical, athletic, academic. It is necessary, however, in discussing leadership to move behind the confidence brought by practiced skills that help a musician perform or an athlete throw a forward pass.

Watching Gen. Russell Honore on the streets of New Orleans makes this a question that is very fresh with many television viewers. What distinguishes leadership from management? Where does the will to act come from?

Is leadership biological as one persons said? In nature, there are no elections--"and if you choose me as alpha wolf, I promise ..." No, not there. Leadership, in those cases, however, does preserve order and ensure survival of the group.

I believe that leadership in the sense of the ability to act, to initiate, stems from a sense of self, built around core values. That sense can be rooted in a number of values--religious, family, a sense of place, a sense of history. It is far more than "I don't care what people think of me." It is the knowledge that "I know what my values are and how they relate to others." Leadership has to relate to the group, because if the group does not embrace the same values, the individual is merely eccentric. Leadership is for the benefit of the group, not the individual.

I wonder what answer Michael will have for our next discussion. It ought to be interesting.

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