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Co-founder of Eurogroup Consulting, Francis Rousseau has for over 30 years been a key figure at the Paris-based consultancy firm. Here he gives his thoughts on the dynamic between authority and power and how it pertains to leadership.
Leaders League. How would you define leadership, what is its essence?
Francis Rousseau. Leadership is more a question of authority than of power. While being a leader confers a certain authority, a leader doesn’t necessarily seek out power. Those who have leadership like power, but it’s not the reason why they occupy their position.
You have to reflect on what is explicit and what is implicit. Personally, I like implicit. The job of a good director is to know where to position the slider on the explicit/implicit scale. People who look for the explicit too much kill intelligence. The explicit must be distilled gradually in order to release the right dose of the implicit.
Leaders League. What difference would you say is there between a leader and a manager?
F.R. A leader offers a vision, an intuition. He is capable of understanding what’s happening on the ground and knows how to develop a sector. He wants to lead his teams toward a goal, to get them to invest themselves in the project. A leader trades on his powers of persuasion; he doesn’t necessarily think about his own power. To embark on new adventures, to take risks and step into the unknown, that’s what interests me. It’s the adrenaline that keeps me going; making possible that which seems impossible.
Leaders League. What purpose does authority and power serve for a leader?
F.R. Authority is related to the long term, while power’s rhythm is shorter, more rapid. To possess leadership is the mark of elegance. It is sometimes far more elegant than the use of raw power. To quote Max Weber, “Power is the chance to impose your will within a social context, while authority is the ability to make people observe it voluntarily.” Big organizations need figures who represent power, yet don’t necessarily have the appearance of a tough guy. But let’s not pretend that this is black and white: power can be elegant and authority dumb. What’s more, the person who has authority must be morally irreproachable, because authority goes hand in hand with responsibility.
Leaders League. Being a leader and a man of power, are they distinct?
F.R. Power confers different rights than those granted by authority and allows respect. If power is legitimate, authority is increased. Leaders love power but hate power structures. They exert their authority. Within the same group it is essential to have both leaders and men of power. It is essential to marry leadership and power intelligently.
Leaders League. Name three leaders that inspire you and why?
F.R. To split up my answer, I would choose one representative each from the worlds of politics, economics and art. John F. Kennedy perfectly represents leadership in politics. He gave voice to dreams that then became reality, and became a positive model for the world.
Next, I would cite Steve Jobs, a true leader, especially in his latter days. He had his personal vision for his company, his industry, the world. He was confrontational, and I like people who are confrontational. He always believed in his project, even with Bill Gates and Microsoft as his rival!
Lastly, Pablo Picasso was, in my opinion, a leader in the artistic world. Not so much for who he was as a person, as much as his capacity for reinvention and willingness to always take risks. His leadership has lasted a century!
Translated from French by Simon Mc Geady
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