One of the most difficult things for me to talk about is ‘leadership’ because I am of the belief that the subject gets way more attention than necessary and unfortunately does as much harm as good in some environments. I won’t get in to all of what that means in this post, but I do want to point out one example that has always seemed a little off – in my opinion.
There’s a school of thought out there that goes something like this, “If you’re leading the way toward a vision and look back to find no one is following then you’re not leading anything you’re just out for a walk.” On the one hand I understand the context of this thinking – many missions require the buy-in of others to support and carry out the vision and people leading the charge need to be challenged to carry the torch in a way that inspires others to ‘follow’- etc. On the other hand, I can’t stand how this gets taken out of context and used to look down on truly quality people of influence (which is what leadership is really about – influence) just because they don’t have a bunch of implied “followers” on an org chart.
Stop taking individual principles out of context! John Maxwell, probably the truest and most accomplished expert on being a person worthy of trusted influence (leadership), teaches in one of his many best-selling books, The 360 Degree Leader, that anyone can be a valuable person of influence from any position in any organization or place in life. Leadership is not all about hierarchy or popularity. It’s not about control or manipulation. Being a ‘leader’ doesn’t mean you have to look back and see a bunch of ring kissers to look down on.
Real leaders don’t have to talk about leadership so much – they just do what they do and if others are along for the ride it’s probably because they were served by the “leader” first. So next time someone feels compelled to make statements about GOOD leadership being anything other than healthy influence and trust, please keep it to yourself. Most of us would much rather everyone just shut up and serve!