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If you think leadership is all about you, you’re dead wrong

May 02, 2011 Business Daily, Leadership

This is the “I need to do it myself if it is going to get done right” leader.  News flash, you are NOT a leader if you are doing everything and deciding everything.  Being a leader is about empowering others, motivating them to act like an owner.  A lone ranger may feel like a rock star but nothing could be farther from the truth.  This leadership approach will chase away the talent on your team, it clearly does not scale, it is not sustainable, and it puts your business at massive risk.  We need leaders that cultivate positive results from others; a smart leader surrounds themselves with those smarter then they are.”

DAWNA MACLEAN www.dawnamaclean.com (11 January 2011)

An excellent little blog post by consultant-coach Dawna MacLean caught my recently. It was titled The 5 Most Dim-Witted Leadership Strategies. I have excerpted dim-witted strategy number five in the box.

So what about it? Are you a ‘lone ranger’ leader? Do you often lock yourself in your office and think things like “It’s lonely at the top,” or “If it needs to be done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” or “you just can’t find the right people these days?”

Sadly, you’re not alone. Many (most) leaders in the world seem to imagine leadership is about THEM. That leaders must make all the decisions and drive everything that matters. That leaders only lead from the front and must be visible at all times. That leaders must generate a lot of sound and be in every battle. That followers love having every decision made for them.

As MacLean pointed out, nothing could be less true. Leadership is NOT about you; it’s about US. In other words, the very point of being a leader is to generate excitement, energy and inspiration in others. It is about getting things done through others. It is about getting the best out of others. It is about deriving enormous satisfaction from the growth and uplift of others.

Please notice all the those sentences mentioned OTHERS. Those are the people leadership is about.

In just a sentence, MacLean pointed out what is wrong with the lone ranger approach to leadership. Let me flesh the key points out for you a little. First, it chases away the best talent. If you wonder why you can’t attract great people to your organization, the problem is very likely YOU. Which gifted or ambitious person would want to work with someone who tries to hold every card in the deck and whose idea of empowerment is “you do exactly what I say”?

Second, the lone ranger model is not scalable. In other words it does not, by definition, produce other leaders. Whatever good these leaders do dies out with them, because they never bother to inculcate their attributes in others.

Third, the model is not sustainable. Which leader in today’s fast-changing business environment can possibly be right about everything? Which one person can see every tech tsunami coming, work out every strategic adjustment? The wisdom of many voices is more important than ever.

Lastly, the lone ranger model creates enormous risk for your business. By investing in the decision-making prowess of just one person, the organization has increased its unwritten risk rating by many times. Because when that all-powerful guy (it’s almost always a guy, by the way) gets it wrong, boy will he get it wrong. With no one to consult and no one to offer a challenge, a certain cliff-edge awaits. Only the timing of the leap is in question.

So it’s really very simple. If you work for a lone ranger leader, get out of there quickly. If you are one yourself, you won’t even have paid attention to this article. Because you’re always right, aren’t you?

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