The Leadership Mirror


by Jason Questor
Managing Partner – Programs and Practices

A popular cartoon comparing what it means to be a leader versus being a boss illustrates that a boss is an order giver out for themselves whereas a leader is part of the team and therefore part of the solution.

Leadership is a term whose meaning has been bent and twisted and re-purposed endlessly, based on what people want to measure. For example, some people call themselves leaders because they are successful at amassing fortunes for themselves and / or for their organizations. These people are often referred to as Business Leaders or even Captains of Industry. The question becomes, how did they do it?

Did they do this by attracting, engaging and inspiring a multidisciplinary team of people towards the achievement of a worthy goal? Did they do it because they have a “knack” for making money based on deep insight into their marketplace and the way money works? Did they do it because they were able to leverage pre-existing or inherited wealth? Or did they do it by bullying and trampling others, using them as placemats and stepping stones on their own road to personal glory?

This is important, because when we refer to someone as a leader, we must be very clear about ways and means, not just the end result as measured by wealth or other material success. Because leadership is fundamentally about people and not self, to consider someone a leader you must incorporate people leadership capability, motivation and sustainability into the evaluation.

The worlds of business and government are chock full of bosses and bullies who consider and use their people only as tools and have no actual respect or concern for them. For these folks, people are to be used, used up, and replaced. How often do you see someone achieve glory with a team, only to have to get a brand new team the next time around? How often do you see someone apply non-stick coating to themselves as a pre-emptive remedy for when and if things go horribly wrong, so that they can emerge unscathed from the mess they directed into being?

And that’s the thing. People follow and want to be with true leaders. A leader moves to a new situation, inside or beyond the boundaries of the current organization, and people work hard to move there with them. This is the Leadership Mirror. Distilled to essence, it is easy to gauge your ability as a leader by answering a single question: who and how many will work hard to be part of your teams, regardless of the cause, simply to have you as their leader?

To be sure, bullies who know how to get rich by using people as tools will attract others with similar ambitions, but those bullies are not leaders and those people are not team members. The followers may be, at best, lackeys and at worst, assassins waiting for their chance.

In the world of leadership, you get what you give.

From Alpha Guerilla:The Leadership Lessons ©2015 Jason Questor

ACHIEVEBLUE’s Lead to Succeed Program, created with our partner Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters,  has been built on the decades long strength of the highly successful Compete to Win program, Lead to Succeed is a fully-realized foundation toolkit that equips your people with up to date, immediately actionable skills that make a real difference. For more information, click here.

Credit: The graphic used in this post has many variations. I have not been able to identify the originator. If you know who this is, please let me know.