The business bestseller list is littered with books offering everything from 12 Principles of Leadership to 101 Ways to Motivate Employees. But if leadership is simply a matter of mastering a few "can't miss" techniques, couldn't any cubicle-dweller cobble together enough of a smile and a sincere-sounding greeting to become an effective manager?
Leadership consultant Peter Koestenbaum, founder of Philosophy-in-Business in Santa Monica, California (www.pib.net), doesn't think it's that simple. "Leadership is essentially a decision that I make to be moral and loving and understanding," he explains. "Figuring out how I can make an impact is not a technique; that is a decision." According to Koestenbaum, good leadership is the offspring of self-contemplation - something no book can deliver.
Like most intense introspection, leadership potential can be fostered, but the individual must make the final breakthrough on his or her own. And it can't be faked. To be a leader, you must "genuinely care about people", Koestenbaum says, "not because it is good for business, but because you care. People react negatively to manipulation and insincerity."
The emphasis on feelings may seem out of step with the bottom-line focus of most businesses. However, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business Professor Marvin Zonis agrees that it's time to get emotions back into the workplace. Given the relative dearth of sustainable competitive secrets, he argues, a company's greatest asset is the quality and the commitment of the people who work for it. And the most effective way to mobilise employees is by making emotional connections. "People don't do something for intellectual reasons," Zonis says. "They do it because it feels great."