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Does Leadership Matter?

In May 2003, Harvard Business Review published the article “IT Doesn’t Matter” by Nicholas Carr. Challenging the traditional paradigm of thinking that information technology (IT) added strategic value to the organization, Carr’s article provoked much debate in the information technology community. As a former chief information officer, director of information technology, and director of technology, innovation, and engineering, I immersed myself in the debate.

However, as I reflect on how Carr’s article disrupted the IT narrative in 2003, I thought what would happen if the same disruption ignited the leadership value-add paradigm today? Does leadership matter? Can organizations survive without leadership?

As a retired Air Force Colonel, I would like to approach this topic militarily. Imagine being on the battlefield without a strategy for success? Who is in charge? With no commander’s intent, what is the game plan for mission execution? For non-military audiences, commander’s intent is the desired outcome or end-state.

Now, imagine if a corporation, government agency, non-profit, or small business operated with no vision for organization success. With the absence of leadership, then what are the expectations for getting to the next level of organization performance? Is there a path forward? If so, who is orchestrating that path?

“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). In essence, they are left unrestrained.

As a critical thinker, what level of success would you expect for either of the above entities if leadership were absent? The obvious answer would be minimal because leadership does matter, and leaders are expected to lead.

One example of a military giant who was successful in his endeavor to lead was Alexander the Great. In high school, I was a history buff. I loved world history. Capitalizing on that knowledge, I wrote a play about the exploits of Alexander the Great. As the King of Macedon, Alexander proved to be a remarkable leader and military strategist creating the largest empire in the ancient world. Age did not preclude him from proving his leadership merit. All of his conquests occurred prior to age 32, which were extraordinary. Despite all of his wins on the battlefield, unfortunately, malaria would cause his demise. Yet, Alexander the Great proved that leadership does matter

Another example of a powerful military leader who proved the significance of leadership was the late General Norman Schwarzkopf. During General Schwarzkopf’s tenure as the Commander of the United States Central Command, I was assigned to the Joint Staff Directorate of Intelligence at the Pentagon. History will forever credit General Schwarzkopf with orchestrating the victories in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

A profound military strategist, General Schwarzkopf provided the leadership critical for military success. Not only was the general large in statue, but large in integrity and honor. These traits were exemplified in his best-selling book, It Doesn’t Take a Hero.

In summary, the absence of leadership can create chaos not only on the battlefield but in organizations. For teams to be effective, there must be congruency in goals and objectives. Therefore, bonafide leaders can be the conduit that binds organizations together vectoring team members in the right direction.

About the author:

Dr. Mary M. Gillam is the owner of Executive Leadership Enterprise & Management Services located in the Washington DC metropolitan area. She is a retired Air Force Colonel and former member of the Senior Executive Service Corps with the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. She is the host of a local television show, Leadership Table Talk, and the inventor of the board game, The Leadership Build Zone. An Amazon #1 best-selling author, she is also the creator of the C.O.R.E Leadership Development Model. Her website is

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