“More is written about leadership than ever, but we have fewer real leaders.” I have heard this, or something similar, many times and I have often said it myself. We have seen failure after failure of high profile business, political, and other types of leaders in the news—both local and national. It gets downright depressing at times.
One thing that I have noticed is that many leadership failures come from what I refer to as “celebrity leaders.” Celebrity leaders have achieved fame as “leaders” through media infatuation, self-promotion, or because their company is unusually financially successful. Often when you dig a bit into these “great leaders” you find failed marriages, estranged children, toxic work environments, a “win at any cost” mentality that discounts the worth and dignity of people, and a litany of other things that I personally would not count as successes.
However, I have come to realize that I was looking in the wrong places for examples of good leadership. The best examples of leadership have been all around me—past and present. I remember my football coach who took a bunch of poor to mediocre athletes at a small school and turned them into a formidable team. I remember U.S. Army officers who quietly went about their business of leading well, though they did not fit the Hollywood version of military leaders. I know a couple in the Midwest who serve as community leaders working behind the scenes to help some of the poorest of the poor in a neighboring city. I remember an extraordinary woman at Texas Instruments (incidentally, she was from Mississippi) who tried not only to develop her team members but also to help them advance in the company—it was a delight being on her team.
Currently, I am working with a company whose leaders range in age from late 20s to mid-40s. They are quietly building a good business by taking care of their employees as if they were family members. They have had employees turn down offers for more money at other companies to stay because of the culture—because of the leadership.
I have worked at a company where the culture was so positive that executives took major pay cuts just to come and work in that environment. In towns and communities across this land, there are wonderful leaders making a real difference. You don’t see them on TV or on websites because these people are not concerned with fame or notoriety and they certainly don’t fit the Hollywood mold of leadership (thankfully!). You don’t see them being quoted on social media or posts about their “Top10 Secrets of Leadership” because they are unconcerned about social media and too busy getting something done to worry about the artificial worlds of Twitter, Facebook, or the like.
Discouraged about what you see in the media/social media about leadership? Then just stop for a bit and look around you and see the wonderful examples of everyday people performing acts of extraordinary leadership. You will be encouraged.