Effective leaders aren’t afraid to standout in a crowd and say something that many, most, or all people will oppose. Being a true leader isn’t about winning a popularity contest or winning Miss Congeniality; it’s about doing and saying what you feel is truly right. Unfortunately, too many of those we call “leaders” in the postmodern epoch aren’t authentic leaders. This has led to numerous milquetoast individuals being considered leaders by many Americans. We have to stop considering people leaders simply because they have a special title and/or they’re always on television. A simple public presence doesn’t make a person a leader.
Before you consider someone a leader, be sure he or she is leading. When a person is leading, he or she is making a real difference in the lives of people. Don’t cheapen what it means to be an effective leader by calling those who are attention-seekers leaders. A clear difference exists between attention-seekers and leaders who aren’t afraid to stand out in a crowd. An effective leader isn’t going to have fear of receiving backlash about saying and doing things that will cause people to be unsettled and unnerved. Many people need to be unsettled and unnerved about the things they believe, say, and do.
People will respect you when you’re willing to say and do the right things, even when saying and doing the right things are difficult to accept. This doesn’t mean that people will like you or that you will become popular, however.
To be an effective leader, one has to have a commitment to saying and doing substantive things. An authentic leader has a record of accomplishment, which includes getting things done for others. If you’re a vain person, you’re certainly not a leader.
Effective organizational leaders don’t worry about who gets the credit for accomplishments. They highlight how it was the team responsible for the accomplishments—not themselves. People will be able to tell when you don’t have the ability to lead an organization; therefore, you cannot fake genuine leadership. An effective leader understands that he or she needs to employ the talents of those around him or her. Being a leader doesn’t mean you know everything. In fact, a leader acknowledges that he or she doesn’t know everything.
Let’s make a commitment to stop crowning people as leaders who aren’t leaders.
Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison