Sunday, February 13, 2011

Leadership: The Mad Dash to Find El Dorado

When assessing the great leaders of the past, whether military, political, or business, it’s likely that you’ll find a very short unique list of truly gifted people who are regarded as ‘great leaders’ of their time.

Yet today leadership has become a topic that has attracted a lot of attention – it’s like teenagers wanting to be celebrities or reality TV stars – it appears everyone suddenly considers themselves a leader or even a great leader and knowledgeable enough to give advice on the subject.

Within this mass of expertise we have some so called top companies using psychometric tests to assess leadership potential – where these tests are firstly based on generic behaviours, where leadership is anything but generic; and worse these tests were never designed to assess leadership in the first place.

There’s a big difference between being assessed as a great leader after a period of time (as all great leaders have been in the past) and striving to be one, day after day. Great leadership is about meeting the challenges faced, head on and through many campaigns and difficult situations, being considered as a great leader; both by those who have followed you over the years and those who have opposed you – and certainly isn’t something that is achieved overnight.

Yet it appears in today’s world that everyone wants to be a great leader, without having ‘worked’ for the honour or having proved themselves to be worthy of the title – and of course there are plenty of people, many who haven’t ‘lead’ themselves who can tell you the secret of overnight success – for a sizeable fee, of course.

The reason leadership is so highly sought after is that it is something that is rare and unique. Amongst the throng of wannabe leadership ‘experts’ there are people and organisations that can help improve leadership skills and the potential that one-day you might be considered ‘great’, but it takes time, a lot of time. Leadership goes way beyond a set of behaviours that may contribute to you becoming an effective leader, especially as these behaviours are certainly not a guarantee of success.

Great leadership is about a journey, where different situations and challenges are met and overcome; where leaders have other great leaders supporting them in their quest; where followers follow because they want to, through being inspired and through loyalty; and where the objective of the journey isn’t about titles or money, but about a continuing challenging vision, experiencing and learning new things and creating a better life for those back home.

The recognised great leaders of the past didn’t create their success through power, but through loyalty and inspiration and through the ‘management and development’ of their talent (having the best people in the right places at all times). Their drive was a vision and not a title – a vision that their followers aspired to as well.

So if you aspire to be a great leader – check who you’re going to get any advice from, as it’s likely that 99% of them haven’t aspired to any form of leadership themselves. You’re looking for people and organisations that aren’t offering quick solutions to a complex problem, (which can take a life-time to achieve) and who aren’t assessing your potential from simple out-of-date personality profiles. The 1% will have been leaders themselves (but will be humble, and won’t consider themselves great); and they will guide you, over a period of time, on your journey, assessing success; not from fancy tests, but from actual achievements and the constant ‘feedback’ of your followers.

So be cautious of the many organisations who claim to be the oracle of fast-track leadership development, as they are only in a mad rush to cash in on everyone’s desire to hold this prestigious title and reach their own El Dorado. Avoiding them may be one of the smartest leadership decisions you’ll make.

1 comment:

  1. You have certainly managed to draw together some core innate values that are manifest in great leadership. Equally, you have not shied away from identifying the plethora of gurus who now, as you identify, offer various quick success paths to leadership and a fee. There is nothing to be gained by allowing oneself to be influenced by those would-be mentors.

    I should be pleased to exchange links with you and welcome any contributions you may wish to make to

    Kind regards,

    Michael D.Ringrose