A video posted by Fred Wilson today is interesting for a lot of reasons. It could be an entire start of a psychotherapy session for some people. One point that was brought up was about leadership. Great leaders are authentic. People sense authenticity, and eventually the bull comes out.
Authentic means a lot of different things to people. Many videos on the internet touch on authenticity. One by Simon Sinek that I always send to people who are pitching talks about “selling the why”. Another very popular video was on finding power out of being vulnerable.
People always tell others to follow their dreams. I think this is the wrong advice. Dreams are great. But you have to create a real life situation where your dreams become valuable to others. Unless you are creating value, you can’t possibly lead.
But, the best leaders believe what they are doing from the core of their personality. They practice what they preach. Those dreams they had stir deep inside them, and they internalize them. As the dreams manifest themselves into values, they drive that leader to action. The action has value if others value it and follow. Otherwise, it’s a narcissistic endeavor.
The other facet about leadership is leaders are very authentic. They aren’t a manufactured personality. There isn’t a lot of spin around them. They don’t lie. They say the same thing to everyone.
Some think that in order to sell yourself, your idea or your movement you have to tailor a pitch to another person. What you say to this group might not exactly be the same thing you say to other groups. Boy, is that wrong. Because the leader finds themselves cross ways in the future in a game of gotcha.
The point to bear in mind here is if you aren’t authentic, you won’t get into the details of what you are really trying to do. That leads to broad platitudes and statements you can retreat from. How many times have you heard people say, “I didn’t say that.” or “I didn’t mean that.”.
Leaders don’t retreat from failure or missteps. They accept responsibility and move on. Here is what General Eisenhower had in his back pocket in case the D-Day landings failed. “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
Think Eisenhower felt vulnerable? Think he was leading from his heart? Did he believe in the cause, or was it just a job and a check?
Leadership takes practice. It takes trial and error and the ability to fail. Great leaders that mentor other leaders allow them to fail. Then instead of saying, “I told you so”, they assist them in picking up the pieces.
Many times great leaders learn to lead by following. That’s how the service academies do it. They make freshman follow. By the time they are seniors, they have more responsibility than many people twice their age. It’s a hyper intense environment and everyone learns by doing, failing, learning, trying again and ultimately succeeding. They learn from success too.
There are plenty of examples of great leadership today, and plenty of poor ones. As an employee, it’s a heckuva lot better to be around a great leader-even when things go wrong. Even success can be miserable under a poor leader.
There is a reason there is a lot written and talked about when it comes to leadership. It’s because it’s so hard. That’s why they say it’s lonely at the top.
thanks for the link Doug Ross. I think we all can think of a leader right now that seems sort of phony.