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An Open Letter to Leaders: You Are Not A Great Leader And Probably Never Will Be

business_110008020-012914-intby Doug Wilson, Featured Contributor

LET’S FACE IT. Most of the readers on LinkedIn are searching for the Holy Grail – a leadership secret that will vault them far beyond their competition. (And most writers are offering that magic bullet which they, and they alone, have discovered). Yet leadership greatness is rare and does not come easily or without a cost. The number of articles Leadership1on LinkedIn tells us that bad and average leaders predominant the workplace. That probably means you.

The great majority of leaders are average. The average leader may be a nice guy or gal and he or she may even show flashes of brilliance. But over the long haul, that person is simply average, as are 68.2 leaders out of every 100. 15.5 of those 100 leaders are really bad (we read about their behaviors a lot) and another 15.5 of those leaders are great (it is their secrets we search for). Unfortunately, it is time to acknowledge that you are not in the great group, although you probably think you are. Research from Teleometrics, International indicates that most mediocre or average leaders believe they are great. It is in this self-deception that the greatest challenge to true leadership occurs. So while you may be average, lets at least acknowledge that fact.[message type=”custom” width=”100%” start_color=”#D8D8D8″ end_color=”#D8D8D8″ border=”#BBBBBB” color=”#333333″]

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE JUST AVERAGE?

  1. You Have No End Goal That Really Matters To You
  • Before leaders can have followers, they first must have a direction or end goal that matters. For most, leadership is just a job with performance metrics that are similar no mater where you go.
  • You have no passion about the direction you are moving toward. You simply make sure performance goals are met and a few capabilities are developed along the way. And, for you, that is good enough.
  • You would be just as glad to use your leadership skills in any other company (for a little more money of course). After all, a job is a job and leadership is transferrable, right?
  • If it is true that millennials are looking for meaning in the workplace, they are going to be deeply disappointed in the reality they find.
  1. You Don’t Do Things Because You Are A Great Leader; You Copy Great Leaders So You Will Look Great
  • When faced with uncertain or difficult situations you never ask yourself, “If I this is what I believe, what should I do in this situation?”leadershipi
  • Instead you search (on LinkedIn?) to find leadership techniques that you can copy that will make you look great.

You do not act because it is what your values tell you what is the right thing to do. You act by trying to copy the techniques you read in some post or article. This way you can be seen as on the cutting edge and, besides, who can criticize you if you quote Peters, Pink, Maxwell or Kousner?

  • When your action does not work, you fault the academic nature of the idea, the workplace in which you work or the staff who will not engage.
  • You never realize that while you can get techniques from others, you cannot get your values or beliefs from a book; they come from your heart. If you are honest, you do not know what you stand for or believe in and your words to this end are hollow.
  • You never look within yourself to ask if the reason for failure is you. You do not realize your actions are a tool to manipulate desired action rather than because they are actions you really believe in.
  • You are offended when your employees see through your motives.
  • You never ask yourself, “What am I doing to my staff when I implement actions that I really have no vested interest in seeing succeed? How can they believe in what I say?”
  1. It Is Too Much Work To Stand For What You Believe
  • For you political correctness is your only definition of values.
  • You compromise what you say you believe is true as soon as pressure or challenge occurs. Keep the peace at all costs.
  • It is easier to go with the flow and placate your bosses or your staff. Standing for what you think is right when no one else is standing with you is not something you are prepared to do.
  • You sit in leadership development sessions or read a few books and articles to find some leadership “magic bullets.” You are just not willing to apply what you know is true.[/message]

Greatness is rare. It requires hard work. It requires passion toward an end. It requires being misunderstood and even being criticized when you have to go it alone. It requires actions that consistently flow out of a set of core beliefs that guide behavior. It requires standing alone for your beliefs when no one else will stand with you.

It is time to quit playing games. Your staff may like you and think you are a great guy or gal. But you are not a great leader and there is no magic bullet that is going to turn you into a great leader because first and foremost, you are not willing to do what is necessary to be great.

For average leaders leadership is not worth the sustained effort required. (Greatness is measured over a sustained period time, heroes occur in the moment). If you are not willing to put forth the effort required, day in and day out over years of time, then at least acknowledge that leadership for you is just an organizational position and that you are average at best. Welcome to the 68%!


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