The term ‘leader’, can sometimes get in the way of understanding the man or woman behind that title or designation. Just because someone is called a leader shouldn’t define them inconsistently from the man or woman that they are.
For example, being called ‘the leader of the free world’ is a very big accolade and responsibility. But the man or woman behind that title is more important than the title itself. Having a title without a nature and disposition to match it opens a person to ridicule and mistrust.
Being called a leader at work is a privilege and carries significant expectations. He or she needs to set an example, be an inspiration, communicate a vision, know how to mobilize others, and be respected for their achievements. People who are called ‘leaders’ and who do none of these things should do some serious naval gazing. There are some people who realize their short-comings, chew on humility, get some development, and apply themselves to be better. There are also some who can’t recognize their deficiencies and need others to coach and steer them towards improvement. And there are still others who just don’t care that their personality and performance doesn’t match the title, regardless of how many screaming voices, disconnected colleagues, and associated carnage lie in their wake.
The minute a person’s negative personality traits detract from effective leadership is the time for action, especially for those subject to that leadership. Say something! Rise above the negative and be your best! Work hard at trying to turn the tide! If all else fails – move on! (Don’t be a victim!)
Every person is unique, and every man or woman can bring something unique to good leadership. It may be compassion, ambition, influence, understanding, drive, or eloquence. The list of leadership virtues is long. For any leader, the important thing is to know their differentiators and allow these to flourish. The existence of leadership competency models can be helpful to promote certain behaviors, but they can also squeeze the individuality and uniqueness out of leaders. For a leader to be authentic and compelling, he or she needs to be themselves. The transparency and vitality of a leader is often what makes them attractive and effective – not their conformity to a model.
Consider the Wikipedia description of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as “unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent”. Finally, a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” There are many leaders who find themselves in a similar position – they think that the title of ‘leader’ defines them, but everyone sees the man or woman behind the clothes of that title. For some leaders this is not a pretty sight, for others they truly are arrayed in a suit that befits the title.