Anna Karenina, Tolstoy, and the Interconnectiveness of Leadership: DeMarco Banter


Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
– Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy

With this dramatic sentence, Leo Tolstoy begins his famous novel Anna Karenina about the struggles of multiple, interconnected families to find happiness.

Tolstoy weaves and dramatizes not only the interconnectiveness of their problems but also the interconnectiveness of the relationships that shape these problems

To be happy, suggests Tolstoy, a family has to solve a large number of complex problems: How does the family deal with money, with children? How does it divide up the family’s responsibilities? How does it manage the pressures of employment? If a family fails to handle any one of the many problems that all families must inherently face, it will be unhappy.

By that introductory sentence, Tolstoy implies in order to be happy, a marriage must succeed in many different respects: sexual attraction, agreement about money, child discipline, religion, in-laws, and other vital issues. Failure in any one of those essential respects can doom a marriage even if it has all the other ingredients needed for happiness.

This principle can be extended to understanding many other aspects of life besides marriage. We tend to seek easy, single-factor explanations of success. For most things, though, success actually requires avoiding many separate possible causes of failure.

The same principle applies to leadership: Effective leaders are all alike; every ineffective leader is ineffective in his/her own way. After all, like a family, a leader faces a very large number of inherent and interconnected problems. Thus, to be effective, the leader and his leadership team must solve or at least address every one of them.

An organization cannot grow without or until its leaders grow and begin to wrestle with and comprehend the interconnectiveness of issues. It is always amazing to witness the amount of money and energy organizations focus on areas that will not produce growth. Pretty coffee table books, brochures, carefully rehearsed pitches and catchy one-line slogans will NEVER overcome incompetent leadership.

The subject of leadership is constantly discussed by scholars, academics and consultants, yet building high-performance organizations remains elusive to many. Leadership is the single most important competitive advantage any organization has… Leadership is responsible for formulating the unit’s strategy, building its teams and executing operations….or comprehending the interconnectiveness.

The leadership team is the most important asset of any organization…and it can be its biggest liability as well. A failed organization is the result of poor performance. Poor performance is the result of an incompetent and/or dysfunctional leadership team.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, All successful leaders are successful for different reasons, but dysfunctional leaders are dysfunctional in the same way. The main reason for poor organizational performance is not the lack of knowledge, but rather negative internal politics, a poor (or no) strategy, a lack of leadership and a failure to grasp interconnectiveness.

Building our leaders will indeed create automatic growth, the strength of any unit is a direct result of its leaders…

The math is simple…

Weak Leaders = Weak Organizations
Strong Leaders = Strong Organizations

Everything…EVERYTHING rises and falls on leadership…
How are we developing our leaders?

2 Replies to “Anna Karenina, Tolstoy, and the Interconnectiveness of Leadership: DeMarco Banter”

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