Why should anyone be led by you? This is the seminal question for all leaders. People arrive at a position of leadership in many different ways – some individuals openly and aggressively seek out positions of leadership, while leadership is thrust upon others. Whether leaders are elected, appointed, anointed, or self-proclaimed, and regardless of whether it is by design or default, once in a position of leadership they nonetheless carry the burden and responsibilities associated with being a leader. So back to the original question – Why should anyone be led by you?
Have you ever felt as if the term “leadership” has a bulls-eye painted on it? Well, it’s because it does – the very mention of the word leadership seems to draw fire from increasingly large numbers these days. The term has been inappropriately hi-jacked by the politically correct who mock it, the avant-garde who belittle it, the naive who discount it, and the public at large seems to be growing tired of hearing about it. I’m befuddled by this dismissive attitude, and am left wondering how we could have arrived at such a place – how could something so valuable be trivialized by so many?
I’ve come to the conclusion that the reasons so many attempt to ridicule leadership are twofold: 1.) The masses of feigned leaders in the public eye make it easy to do so, and; 2.) Real leaders tend to practice their craft quietly, and with great humility, often going unnoticed in the public eye.
I was at a leadership workshop over the weekend and witnessed a leader self-assess himself as his own greatest risk. It’s true for all of us. Here’s a sobering thought for you to ponder – YOU are the single biggest threat to your role as a leader. Which means YOU are also the single biggest risk to your success in the workplace, with your spouse, to your children, and to your friends. If you are in a position of leadership, you will lead – you will either lead people toward the right things or lead them astray, but you will lead.
By my definition, leaders are not self-promoting, pseudo celebrities whose propensity for personal achievement and media attention far outweigh their true contributions. Rather than focus on the braggarts that litter the media with their personal triumphs, or the charlatans who provide constant reminders of failed leadership, we need to focus our attention on the true leaders who quietly walk among us each day…ethical business people, soldiers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, principled educators, pastors & theologians, medical practitioners, responsible parents, student achievers, volunteers, statesmen (notice I didn’t say politicians), good Samaritans, and the every day hard working American citizen. These are the real leaders who through their personal sacrifice, committed service, and selfless acts who deserve our respect and attention.
We’ve all witnessed the leader who tries to do too much, and conversely, most of us have also observed the leader in stealth mode. We’ve gladly followed the bright, affable and charismatic leaders and rebelled against the arrogant and self indulgent leaders who love to do little more than pontificate about their legendary prowess. The truth is no single label receives the unrelenting and often terse scrutiny (public and private) than that of leader. The pressure is intense, and the risks are high. The good news is the rewards can be tremendous for those who possess the requisite skills and character to not only hold the title of leader, but who are also capable of living up to the title.
When you closely examine the core characteristics of what really makes for great leadership, it’s not power, title, authority or even technical competency that distinguishes truly great leaders. Rather it’s the ability to both earn and keep the loyalty and trust of those whom they lead that sets them apart. Leadership is about trust, stewardship, care, concern, service, humility and understanding. If you build into those you lead, if you make them better, if you add value to their lives then you will have earned their trust and loyalty. This is the type of bond that will span positional and philosophical gaps, survive mistakes, challenges, downturns and other obstacles that will inevitably occur. Leadership is service. It’s not about you, but about the serving the needs of those whom you have responsibility for.
You don’t change mindsets by being right, you do it by showing you care. Logic and reason have their place, but they rarely will overcome a strong emotional or philosophical position. Trying to cram your positional logic down the throat of others will simply leave a very bad taste in their mouths. This is a very tough lesson for many to learn, but a critical one if you take your duties, obligations and responsibilities as a leader seriously.
The best leaders are capable of aligning and unifying opposing interests for a greater good. You won’t ever become a truly successful leader until you understand a person’s need to be heard and understood is much more important than satisfying your need to impart wisdom. I’m going to make this as simple as I can…leadership is all about the people – nothing more & nothing less. Are you worthy of being a leader? Why should anyone be led by you?