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Leadership Thought #314 – It’s Not Just About You

March 8, 2012

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When you lead others it’s about them not just about you. Many leaders struggle with this idea, especially those with big egos.  The truth is that without followers there isn’t a need for a leader.   People need to see their own interests aligned with yours.  In addition, there needs to be something that holds them together besides the strength of your personality, size of your brain, and/or level of your self-confidence.

When people are too full of themselves it shows.  Regardless of what you may think, no one has the market cornered on clever ideas and sound judgment.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t some exceptionally talented individuals out there with strong track records leading organizations, but they can only ever execute so much on their own.  They are also only ever as good as their management team and other key personnel.  Inspiring and motivating others means tapping into their respective talents and motivations, not just pushing forward through sheer force of will. To genuinely care about something, people need to feel they have a stake in the outcome and have had a say in the decision/direction on how to get there.

I’ve heard it said that leadership is about getting extraordinary results from ordinary people.  I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, we often highlight strong personalities in our literature on leadership.  The media also loves oversized egos and brash communicators.  It’s easy to profile someone who loves to talk about what they think and why they are right.  However, no one likes a braggart and many of these same people alienate as many people as they convert to their point of view (if not more).   I am often flabbergasted by the lack of journalistic integrity and fact-finding prowess when it comes to identifying and celebrating what constitutes leadership acumen.

The best leaders approach their relationships much more deftly.  They not only value but also actively encourage input from others.  They are more worried about achieving the right outcome than any pride in authorship/ownership on the means to get there.  They are honest when they don’t know something and ask for help when they need it.  They admit when they are wrong and pick others up when they fail.  They are generous with praise and share the spotlight.  They surround themselves with independent thinkers and let them think, debate, and then decide as a group what next steps to take.  They know when to assume control of the situation and when to back off.  They abhor sycophants and always want the truth even when it is hard to digest.  They put the needs of the company or organization above their own self-aggrandizement and celebrity.  Leadership is always about “We” and “Us”, but rarely about “I” and “Me.”

Never forget when you are a leader, it is not just about you but the impact you have on others.