We all know “that” kind of leader. And we have all experienced the pain of trying work follow and work with one like “that.” But, what is “that?”
Today I am talking about leaders who give leadership a bad name. Well, what do you mean by that? Isn’t leadership a noble thing? Absolutely it is a noble and worthy endeavor. And there are many examples of fine leaders and fine leadership. But knowing is not the same as doing or being.
Many years ago I was presented with a paradigm of leadership that resonated 35 years ago when I was a young man. And that paradigm still resonates today. It is the paradigm that suggests that the higher up in leadership you ascend, the less personal freedoms you have. The corporate world teaches us the opposite. And the culture of celebrity is even more brazen in the teaching and modeling of a paradigm where the richer or more powerful and famous I become, the more freedom I have to act like an absolute idiot at times and experience no repercussions.
Thankfully, leadership is not the same as celebrity! Thankfully, there are leaders out there who shun the mantle of the obnoxious and instead wear the cloak of a servant leader.
So, what kind of leader are you?
Are you the kind of leader who leads with words, or with actions?
Are you the kind of leader who shoulders part of the load, or do you stand back and tell folks to strain a little more and carry a little more?
Are you the kind of leader who instills confidence, or are your followers filled with anxiety because they are not sure that you have what it takes?
You may have been a successful leader in the past. Being a leader does not have to be a “life sentence.” I believe very strongly that there are seasons of our lives and that we have roles to play in the various seasons of life. This means that you may have been an effective leader at some point in your life. Are you still effective? Has your season of life changed?
You may have felt forced into a leadership role. You didn’t seek it, but instead, it sought you. That happens from time to time. Perhaps you were able to hold an organization together through a tough time. Is now the time to step aside and let another leader take the organization to the next level?
You may have actively sought the leadership role. Maybe you were ready for it. And maybe you weren’t. But you achieved or attained the role of “leader.” Now that you are a leader, how is going? Are you leading well? Are you leading with passion? Are you leading with grace? Are you leading with integrity? Are you leading with a track record of success?
This last case is the one that I am most concerned about today. You sought to become a leader and you are now a leader. But your organization is struggling under your leadership. Profits are down. Membership is down. Volunteerism is down. Attendance is down. And the organization doesn’t know what to do about it. The organization may genuinely love you and appreciate you. But, you are not getting the job done as a leader.
You may not even be aware of the circumstances and situations around you. Your closest friends and followers may be continuing to tell you how great you are. You are not a “numbers” person and you are not attracted to the kind of data and trends that will tell us if we are being effective as leaders. So, maybe you just don’t know. Maybe.
What should you do?
The first thing that you should do is take a good look in the mirror. That is usually one of the first things that we do in the morning. Even then, you may not get a sense of what message your leadership is projecting. I often find it more beneficial to focus on the very last thing I do at night. When I lay my head on the pillow each night, am I convinced that I am being the best leader that I can possibly be? Do I go to sleep with confidence in my abilities and in my efforts? This for many is the most painfully introspective time of day.
The second thing that I would suggest is that you seek an independent appraisal of your leadership skills and abilities. The harsh reality may be that you are just not designed to be a leader. Remember one of my initial statements. Leadership is not the same thing as celebrity. Many folks want to be famous, feel loved, and feel admired and they seek leadership roles in order to receive those feelings from those around them. But that is the kind of leader that gives leadership a bad name. You are in it for “what you get out of it” and not “what you put into it.”
Do yourself a favor.
Find a new position within your organization. Find a place where you can be more comfortable, more confident, and more successful. Leadership is not for everyone. At least certain types of leadership are not for everyone. Please realize this. When you hold on to your leadership position and you lead the organization downward, you are hurting yourself. You are hurting the organization. And that gives leadership a bad name.
Let go. Release the reigns of leadership to someone else. You will find freedom in doing that. And you may see the organization that you love begin to flourish again under a new leader.