They Call You Leader But Who Have You Led?

Vantage Points Header Joel Elveson

Leadership or leaders in particular are the topic of many discussions/articles on social media outlets such as LinkedIn. The subject of leaders/leadership gets more “air play” than just about any other with the possible exception of the mortgage bankers who are still playing the “let’s pretend anybody can buy a home” game. Not gonna happen!

In my mind it stands to reason that if you are called a leader presumably you have performed some activity with one group or another to earn that distinction. It’s one thing to have “leadership qualities” as part of your persona but it still comes down to whom have you led? If you haven’t actually led anybody or a group of some sort than it stands to reason you are not in fact a leader.

As a for instance have you been the “Leader Of The Pack (The Shangri-Las this song from the album of the same name in 1965)? If so one could argue on your behalf that leading a motorcycle gang does require leadership skills thusly entitling you to be awarded the coveted leader title.

You led your company in sales? That would be an individual accomplishment and hardly worthy of being an example of leadership in the purest form. Your success is noteworthy as it is praiseworthy but the long and short this does not qualify you as a leader.

Were you the coach of a winning professional sports team that went on to win a championship or several championships? This being the case you are in fact a leader. In these long grueling seasons many challenges are encountered that have to be overcome. Having done that and taken your team to the winners circle instantly makes you a leader. You clearly have led and quite successfully at that.

They call you a leader but who exactly have you led and to what extent did you actually lead that produced tangible results? Our President is the leader of the free world but we have seen the disaster his administration has become. Hardly a candidate for the leadership tag.

Have you inspired others to achieve things they never though they could or realize dreams they never thought would see the light of day? If you can or have done that then my friend you are true leader. A leader should be able to lift people onto his back show them the way forward and letting them go.

I will grant you the fact that leadership in its purest form is not always easily definable or recognizable but in the final analysis leadership needs a determining factor which to my way of thinking equates to results. Leaders are and should be deemed successful or failures based on what they have accomplished. If not for that benchmark there are no other determining factors to officially anoint you as a leader.

When I refer to results I define them in a group sense not the individual sense as noted above with the case of the salesman who led his company in sales over duration in time. If you will forgive my redundancy in thought it is your efforts, etc. that empowered a group to move higher. What you have done as an individual is not a qualifying factor when it comes to being a leader.

Think of the conductor of a symphony orchestra who must direct a collection of musicians often playing different instruments at the same while producing a harmonious sound. That conductor (Leonard Bernstein was one of the greatest conductors we have seen in our lifetime) took on individual musicians with varying temperaments carefully weaving this group into a full-fledged orchestra. Case in point we have an individual who lifted many others higher than they could normally go. This is leadership at its finest most defined moment.

One could safely say that too many people are being handed the title of leader without having earned it nor come close. As pointed out we have seen a few examples of leadership whose accomplishment with others has great merit to it. While we need many tried and true leader caution must be exercised that we don’t have a bar set so low that only minimal accomplishment will be sufficient to call a person a leader.

Let me for the final time during this article pose the question that the title of this article asks, which is “They Call You Leader But Who Have You Led?” Certainly a real leader should be able to answer this question with ease and be able to document his answers. Prove to whomever has to be convincing that you have indeed led.

You should not infer form this article that I am anti-leader or anti-leadership. Certainly I recognize and revere leadership with a deep understanding of the fact how necessary they are. What I am trying to point out that to be a leader one must have shown it or be able to show it or the term is for naught.

In her song “Winds Of The Old days (music is always the best reference or barometer to measure things by) Joan Baez right fully stated that leaders go unsung which to me indicates yet again accomplishment leads to acknowledgement of such. A true leader as humble as he or she may be will still want some acknowledgement of their success while being deserving of such.

Not only must you show whom you have led, but you must continually demonstrate your leadership skills – along with the results. To have successfully led once without ever duplicating your past success would make you somewhat suspect insofar as leaders go.

The goal or aim of this article was to take a widely discussed subject and attach a question to it not so much as a challenge but more in the realm of questioning how is it possible we have some many so-called leaders yet there are still far too many people wandering through life’s wilderness with “no direction home” (Like A Rolling Stone-Bob Dylan)? A leader provides or is supposed to provide direction.

In the absence of the above lyric line definition of an act of leadership performed, there was never a true leader who helped others successfully run the race.


Joel Elveson
Joel Elveson
INDEPENDENT Executive Recruiting By Joel is an "up and coming" Executive Search Firm formed and headed up by Joel Elveson whose visionary ideas, leadership & creativity have brought to life a more "user-friendly" approach to recruiting. His clients and candidates form powerful strategic partnerships that we use to help you. Joel’s Firm offers Permanent, Temporary (case by case), & Temporary To Permanent staffing solutions for all of your Human Capital Requirements. Contract IT/Consultants are available if needed. Above and beyond they are experts (by way of their personal industry work experience) with mortgage, mortgage banking, middle-market banking, accounting, along with many others under the vast financial spectrum of disciplines. Their business goes beyond candidate recruiting as they also train, mentor and develop your internal recruiting staff with an eye towards helping you reduce the cost of hiring. They will also work in areas such as compensation, effective onboarding processes and alike. In other words, their business is to help your business by becoming an extension of you by filling in gaps that cause delay or waste. The recruiting methods employed by Joel’s team are time tested that results in a high rate of successful placements. Joel was trained in the art of recruiting by some of the top staffing industry executives in addition to the best recruiter trainers who to this day drive me to exceed the lofty goals he has set forth.

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  1. Lots of interesting thoughts, Joel. I wonder if history is the final determiner of who is and is not a leader. My guess is that a true leader, during the time he or she is doing the actual leading, is not wondering, “Am I leading”? They may ask, “Am I doing the right thing”? I believe that often times circumstances are a huge factor in whom we deem to be great leaders. Thanks for keeping the conversation going.

  2. I believe that being a leader dose not require you to be responsible for a group of people, because you can lead by example, and people will follow your lead even if they are not directly associated with you, the problem is that leadership isn’t always right. this is a great post and defining a true leader is hard.

    • Andy, thank you for taking the time (especially at this hour) to read and comment on my article. Leading by example is in its own way an act of leadership. However, in the lexicon of leadership in order to take on this exalted title, you have to, in fact, have led people. You bring out an excellent point in that leadership is not always right but if you read the plethora of articles written on this subject consideration is never given to the fact that the leader or leadership isn’t always right.

    • Thanks Joel, You are right A leader in the true sense of the word is an individual who leads one or more other people, and I was straying slightly from your article because I wanted to empathise the fact that leadership comes in many guises and is very difficult to write about, having said that, what you have written is really good and you get your message across brilliantly. Am looking forward to reading more of your articles.

    • Andy, I am extremely grateful to you for your support by way of your readership and comments.
      The fact you are going to be reading my articles is something I consider to be a gift.
      Do not worry about straying from the article topic as that is perfectly fine.

  3. I myself have had leadership reponsability and met many practical, ambitious people, capable of smart financial operations or skilled political maneuvers. Only in a very few I perceived that that goal, that title, was only the tool for a higher purpose, to achieve a more important purpose, a mission, a vocation, a dream, a vision.
    Those who are moved by a spasmodic desire for power and are ready to do anything to get it, can rise very high. People who move for love of wealth and personal prestige can achieve important results. But only those who are moved by a vision that includes even the common well being can do what others can not even think, not even imagine, being they only able to judge that way of thinking a madness or nonsense.

  4. Not everyone has the emotional make up, or drive to be a leader. In fact most people have no desire to be a leader and are perfectly happy following a good leader. Probably a good thing too. If everyone was a leader, there would be no one left to be followers… 😉

    • Ken, Many thanks for reading my article and sharing your comments with the readers. Your contention that that not everyone has the emotional make up,or drive to be a leader. There are a great many people out there would would much prefer to follow a competent leader. The question I like to ask is at what point do you obtain the ability to lead yourself on your own. As far as followers go I am of the opinion that there will never be a shortage of people who want or need to be led. Thank you again Ken for your readership in addition to sharing your comments with the reading audience.

  5. I agree with all your points sir. Every client I work with, there is always that one person that makes the claim they’re not just a leader, leadership is their core strength. They have no followers. They have no vision. But they sure have a lot of political clout though to get what they want.

    For me, political clout alone doesn’t make a leader; having followers inspired and engaged in your message does.

    • Chris, Thank you for your readership and ensuing comments. A leader must have vision and strength of wisdom. Without those two components in addition to needing followers you are not a leader. Political clout and leadership are not two terms that you generally would associate with each other as for the most part they are completely different concepts. All my best.

  6. Good points, Joel. You are not a leader, if you have no followers. A job title doesn’t make one a leader. Many confuse leadership with popularity. A good leader is not always popular. The test often, is do your followers follow you even when you must take actions that are not popular?

    • Ken,
      My thanks to you for reading and commenting on my article. In order to be a leader sometimes being popular is ahelp as that is a sign people trust you and believe in your ability. When you make decisions that are not popular the litmus test that must be passed is the success or failure of your decisions. Thank you yet again for your loyal readership.

  7. I love this post. I have run across many people that claim to be leaders, but fail miserably at it because they do not shape or mold their subordinates. To be a leader there can be no sugar coating of any issue, you must express to your subordinates how actions effect them and all of the 3rd 4th 5th and 6th order effects. In my opinion If these so called leaders had a real leader along the way, to provide that service to them, they would be true leaders today.

    • James, Thank you once again for your well pointed comments. Please allow me to thank you for not only reading my post but for your thoughts as well.