Why is ‘leadership’ so misunderstood?

Why is ‘leadership’ so misunderstood?

Explore what makes an individual an effective leader.

June 25, 2019

“Leadership is not a position or title, it is an action and example.”

I recently posted that quote from Cory Booker on my Facebook page. The first two comments I received were, “Doing what is right for the majority, not the select few,” and “Great way to think about it.”

As a consultant working in the leadership arena for more than 20 years, both comments confused me. It left me wondering whether professionals today understood leadership. With all of the fantastic speakers, books devoted to leadership, and the internet overflowing with leadership information, why would people still believe that just having a title deems you a leader?

I wanted to respond to both with a lengthy explanation of leadership to help enlighten them, but what good would that do? They really believe they know what leadership is and I would just be another argumentative person on social media. No thanks.

Let’s dig into each of these comments:

  •  “Great way to think about it.” This person believes that leadership is in fact a title or position. You are the boss, therefore you are a leader.  Some of you might be thinking, “I’ve worked for people who didn’t have a leadership bone in their body, but they had the title.” Let’s face it. Anyone can get promoted because they do a good job as an employee, but that doesn’t mean they are equipped to inspire or develop a successful team.
  • “Doing what is right for the majority, not the select few.” The first comment is naive, but this comment is completely opposite from true leadership. A leader does what’s right because it’s right and never plays to the majority or the lowest denominators. A leader sees the future and makes decisions that will move the team from today into a successful tomorrow. Setting and building a plan to fulfill the organization’s mission and vision. Leaders do the hard things even if the majority doesn’t get it. Good leaders will in fact make top performers and creative thinkers very happy, but decisions are never made to keep the peace or ensure happiness. 

That leads me to another thought. Do people currently make the term “leadership” fit their personal agenda and their own insecurities? I believe the answer is yes. And I must follow that question with another one: do too many bosses call themselves leaders because of a title? Again, the answer is yes. 

I know I picked on these people, but my driving force is you. If you are in a leadership position, strive to learn everything you can about being an effective leader. Don’t toss the term around mindlessly. Leadership is not about dictating the actions of others. It’s about setting a course and creating an environment where your team can thrive and participate in that vision, not because they’ve been told to, but because they share the vision and want to go on the journey with you.   

Good leaders are honest and trustworthy they do what they say they are going to do. They are good at including others in their dream and are secure in letting the team contribute and share the success. Good leaders communicate and communicate to ensure understanding and a shared vision. They have a sense of humor and are not afraid to laugh at their own mistakes. A leader is confident in their ability but not pompous about it. They are committed to the vision, team success and strived to keep a positive environment where creativity is encouraged.

Don’t be like the guys who commented on my Facebook post. Make a leadership decision to be a better leader.