Great leaders are a rare find. Power-trip “leaders,” martyrs as “leaders” self-pitying “leaders” and manipulative “leaders” are plentiful; they run countries and cities and teams all over the place but great leaders are like an endangered unprotected species. It’s unusual to find them running anything at all.
I had a high school teacher who perfected the art of great leadership, and I saw it at work recently in a well-known coach. Although I am not always certain, I have read about a few mayors who apparently have a clear grasp of it. But the scarcity is understandable. Inevitably, authentic leadership will be opposed, resisted, often rejected and even put to death. It unwittingly unsettles every complacent trace within us, and, once we enter its influence, it challenges our laziness and seems to expect that we deliver our best. For these reasons such leadership is often unwelcome.
In the face of great leadership we have only a few choices: we can rebel, run, sabotage or enjoy the challenge of discovering, facing and sometimes realizing our potential.
Authentic leadership has nothing to do with money. In fact, besides the basketball coach I mentioned, every one whom I know who “gets it” regarding leadership would be considered poor were the measure money. Leadership is not about power or getting people to do or be anything. It is not about being obeyed or honored. It is an acknowledgment of the potential in others, respecting their freedom, believing in their ability to prevail over the difficulties they face. The authentic leader, if you will forgive the jumbled metaphors, “clears the deck” so others can “dance to their own drum” and make music and movement beyond the leader’s design. Authentic leadership is about trust of self and of others. Here are some ways to identify authentic leaders:
1. They know leadership and relationship are inseparable.
2. Leading others does not mean over-powering others.
3. They develop a good self-knowledge knowing they will unwittingly take out their frustrations on others.
4. They know and understand that craving or enjoying power diminishes it while empowering others benefits everyone.
5. They appreciate the power and the influence they have and treat their role very respectfully.
6. They encourage adventure.
7. They discourage safe options.
8. They know that the value of all people and their ability to perform tasks or deliver services is not related.
9. They understand the importance of their own character development.
10. They know that the manner in which something is done is more important than the result achieved.
11. They know that leading is a role not an identity and are ready to be led by others who might be better equipped at a task or project.
12. They know how to apologize.
13. They never intimidate, dominate or manipulate others.
14. They know that no one is perfectly good and no one is perfectly bad.
15. They have little interest in the symbols of success because they know their seductive powers and have seen right through their shallow promise.