Why Aren’t There More Leaders?


“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” —Andrew Carnegie

The popular view of leaders, especially the view pushed by the media, may be influencing the number of people prepared to put their heads above the parapets and be considered a leader.

Here’s a shocker – “Successful” people are often not great leaders?

Mythical with the emphasis on Myth

Take the maverick using his charisma to take followers along with him. Sure there are low-profile casualties as non-believers are cast aside but the end goal is noble isn’t it. Courageous acts abound and unconventional thinking is a must. He’s in the newspapers all the time.

Another, a visionary with mystical powers who operates so far above the rest of us mere mortals. He’s ahead of the curve in almost every way, he’s got to have a crystal ball hasn’t he? He doesn’t suffer fools because he doesn’t need to. If you don’t agree with him you probably just don’t understand.

Another fallacy seems to be that unless you’re at the top you are not a leader, and in the same way, if you are at the top then you must be a leader.

Reality Check

Some people like this certainly exhibit some traits of leaders, and to get to the top probably requires a level of leadership ability. They are successful in a popular sense, but they are not necessarily great leaders.

Effective leaders are not looking for devoted followers, they are influencers who lead by their actions, and encourage and inspire people to share their vision.

True leaders have an appreciation that people can grow and develop, and that in doing so they may well refine the original vision and will sometimes become leaders themselves.

Great leaders will almost always be thinking longer term than the next headline or TV interview. Their vision will likely be built on original thinking, but they’ll be just as happy to be inspired by those they lead.

Some Leadership Abilities

Leaders will often tell a story of how they just started out to re-invent something that didn’t seem to work right. They can make people uncomfortable when they naturally upset the perceived “right way of doing things” by actually doing it right.

They have their own clear vision, and can then articulate it and inspire others to share their passion.

Leaders know that they cannot do everything themselves. They’ll surround themselves with good people and they’ll work out how to enable those people to do their best.

It’s a cliché to say “Lead by example”, but it’s a fact that many successful leaders are willing and able to do what they are asking others to do, and go where they are asking others to go.

Leaders don’t get successful through sheer force of will. They know the importance of good planning and flexible implementation. No plan survives in it’s original state when it meets the real world. The ability to measure results and a willingness to adapt are crucial.

Consistently effective leaders know how to bring their people along with them. It’s easy at the start when everyone is full of energy and enthusiasm, but when things get tough they are able to motivate and encourage their team to keep going on the right path – to get people to want to do these things not just because they’re told to.

There’s leadership style, and there’s also the ability to forge connections in different ways with different people to suit their individual personalities and styles. That requires an understanding of behaviours and the corresponding motivations – a subject that merits its own separate article.

Leading From Any Level

The ability to lead doesn’t come with the job title. Just because he’s called the CEO doesn’t mean he’s a leader.

Look around and you’ll see examples of effective leadership at all levels and in all sizes of organisations. You’ll also see people who have been discouraged because they’ve been fed the myths of modern leadership and don’t think they live up to them.

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