The Global Leadership Forecast 2008/09 researched 12,208 business executives and 1493 Human Resource professionals across 76 countries. Seventy-five percent of executives surveyed identified improving their leadership talent as their #1 priority for organizational success. But the vast majority of those same respondents have no idea of exactly what leadership is.
It is astounding that so many people, when asked to define leadership, can have so many varying answers. In fact, there are 350,000 books on Amazon with “Leadership” in the title. That’s 350,000 opinions on what leadership is. Confused yet?
What has become clear is that there is no universally accepted definition of leadership because leadership is not tangible. It is not something you can hold in your hand.
North America needs to stop thinking that Leadership is something that can be attained in a week-long course or by reading a book. Without addressing context, deep-seated opinions, beliefs and values, no one is ever going to become a leader.
Leadership is an attitude and a state of mind. It is not the accomplishment of a series of tasks. It is not a passing grade at some course. It is not a title. It is not something you achieve. It is a way you exist. It is how you carry yourself. It is how you choose to walk the Earth.
The waters have been muddied in recent years by equating leadership with holding a top position in an organization. Leadership is not a position. Leadership is not something you do. But in the desperation that Corporate North America has to be number one, to be the best and to be the mightiest, a vacuum has been created and is now being filled with 350,000 opinions on what leadership is. In this vacuum, Corporate America has become so desperate for real leaders to follow, it has become self-anointing. And by becoming self-anointing, businesses have now sprung up promising to turn losers into leaders – for a price.
John Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” is fundamentally wrong. His book teaches some new-age North American leadership culture as though if you simply do all of the twenty-one things in his book, you too will become a leader. That’s pure bunk. Leadership can be learned but not by simply following twenty-one so-called “laws.” Maxwell has made a promise that if you follow the “laws” (and don’t question them – remember they’re irrefutable) in his book, you can become a leader. That is simply not true. You will never get people to follow you by simply checking off a list of traits. That definition of leadership is too cerebral.
The new leadership models are simply pandering to the masses in the same way “Get Rich Quick” schemes pop up when times are tough or in the same way a diet pill can slim down in two-weeks what took years to get fat. Corporate America has no patience and doesn’t want to do the hard work involved in becoming a true, authentic leader. It wants the quick-fix, instant-gratification, instant-leader pill and “make it snappy because I’ve got other things to do.”
A leader is not something you become in exchange for money. What is fundamentally wrong with Corporate North America is that there is a mistaken belief that you can have anything you want if you have the money to do it. And that includes being a leader. Money is not leadership. Power is not leadership. Fame is not leadership. Ruthless is certainly not leadership.
A parent is as much a leader as a CEO. The office whiner is as much a leader as his supervisor if people are following. The first person to loot a store during a riot is a leader if others follow. Osama Bin Laden is as much a leader as any head of state.
Leadership is NOT exclusive to the workplace. In fact, leadership has nothing to do with work. Leadership is a character trait, a state of mind, an attitude. How can you define an attitude?
People follow people they want to follow. There is no explanation for that. People who are considered natural leaders are people that others wish to emulate. The trick, however, is in following the person and not their results (i.e. money, power, fame). The Dalai Llama is a far better example of authentic leadership than Donald Trump. People follow Trump for his power and money when the world would be a different place if they’d follow the Dalai Llama. Trump is a leader as is the Dalai Llama.
What defines a leader? If Bin Laden and the Dalai Llama can both be considered leaders, then it is not a list of traits that form their make-up. It is the attitude they possess that causes others to follow them, to listen when they speak and to change the world for the better or worse. When Corporate America learns to follow decency instead of thirsting for power, then it will finally start seeing the real leaders emerge again. And once we figure out how to make money from “decency,” you can bet it will be the next big thing.
Kevin Burns, Author & Attitude Adjuster is a worldwide authority on Attitude. He is the author of seven books including his latest, “Go Ahead. Give Me Attitude!” He is an outstanding keynote speaker, worldwide columnist and international Blogger of influence. He is opinionated, blunt, direct, funny, thought-provoking, incredibly well-researched and usually right!
Kevin’s Web Site – http://www.kevburns.com
This article may be reprinted without cost provided the following is attached: Kevin Burns – Author and Attitude Adjuster. Adjusting Attitudes in Service Leadership, Engagement and Safety http://www.kevburns.com/blog
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