Look behind you. Are you being followed? If the answer is yes, odds are pretty good that you’re a leader. Sure, it could just be paranoia, I suppose. But because you’re reading this, I’m assuming the former.
As you might expect, writing for Leadership Voices often causes consideration of a very basic question: What is a leader? I mean – a leader in the most elementary sense of the word? Let’s test a definition that I think works, and let’s see where it takes us and what conclusions from it may be drawn. Try this on for size:
A leader is someone who has followers.
That’s not to say, of course, that all leaders are good leaders – but I think it is right to say that all leaders, by the simplest, lowest-common-denominator definition, have followers.
Seems ridiculous, I know, but there are some important lessons for leaders that can be learned from even such a simple idea, and I’ll spend the balance of our time here exploring a few of them. First:
Can you think of an example of a leader who doesn’t have any followers?
Answering this question begins to help us roll back layers of fog around what true leadership is, because it helps us to distinguish principles of effective leadership from the actual leaders themselves. Stated more plainly, it helps us see the difference between personality traits that look, feel and smell “leader-ish” and the real leaders that are actually leading.
Many people in society may be looked upon as having the appearance of a leader: charismatic individuals with forceful, creative, persuasive ideas. People who command armies in battle. Politicians at any variety of levels of government. Coaches and athletes. Movie stars. Certainly we look at heads of large companies as leaders. But are they they leaders? Unless they have followers, then they are only playing a leadership or projecting an image without substance.
Let’s consider two examples of false leaders: the Despot, and the “Lone Wolf”.
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