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If you want true leadership, first know what it is

Dec 14, 2014 Leadership, Sunday Nation

What does it mean to lead human beings? Last week I wrote that in the wild, leaders are often just the biggest, most ruthless animals. And they take most of the spoils. Here in the human race, a race in which I can write these words and you can read them, an entirely different model of leadership is needed.

Here’s why. Because we are human, we have the capacity to go for the higher ideal, the bigger deal. We are given the wherewithal to make more of our lives than mere survival. We can build something longer and stronger than just getting through each day. We can have long-term purpose.

To lead for the sake of the self – to enrich the self, to grow the status of the self – is the lowest form of leadership. It leads to no result other than the continued impoverishment of the collective, when all the wealth is grabbed by those who are given the authority to make decisions on behalf of the collective.

Real leadership is different. It is focused on the uplift of all, not just the enrichment of the leader. Real leadership is genuinely concerned with the mass, the following. It is not a confidence trick in which the people are conned into believing they will benefit from your leadership – their benefit is your very mission.

Real leadership is rare, so very rare. Wherever you look, you will see faux leaders, conmen masquerading as statesmen.

But just because it’s rare does not mean we should regard real leadership as impossible or utopian. It’s not unachievable. It happens. Just look carefully at the nations, movements, societies and corporations that have truly improved the world – and you will see that at crucial times in their history they were led by those rare individuals who value the collective more than they value their own progress.

The great leader is the one who learns how to work with, through and for other people. If you want to be such a leader, here are some messages for you.

You’re not appointed leader to help you; you’re appointed to help everyone but you. You’re not appointed leader to join the gluttons; you’re appointed to help the starving. You’re not appointed leader to look into the mirror; you’re appointed to look out of every window. You’re not appointed leader as a reward for you; you’re appointed to take responsibility for everyone else.

You’re not appointed leader to end your journey; you’re appointed to begin your struggle. You’re not appointed leader to talk a lot; you’re appointed to do a lot. You’re not appointed leader to shout the loudest; you’re appointed to listen the longest. You’re not appointed leader to take the biggest share; you’re appointed to ensure no one is left out.

You’re not appointed leader to ride in a nice car; you’re appointed to create a result for others. You’re not appointed leader to eat the cake; you’re appointed to bake it.

Still interested? Few would be. That is why Socrates asked us to look out for reluctant leaders. Those who are all-too-willing to lead are often the least qualified for true leadership. They equate leadership with self-uplift. Sadly, they get appointed more often than not.

The issue begins with followers. If we can’t discern what true leadership is, we have no hope of demanding it. So take a look at whom you have appointed to lead you, in your community, your team, your organization, your nation. If that person is all about bigger convoys and bigger mansions and bigger offices and bigger bonuses, you’re in trouble. You won’t be led anywhere worth going.

If you want true leadership, you will first have to know it when you see it.

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