You’ve Got to ‘Know the Difference’
by Jeff Piersall
Just as technology and information have exponentially increased, so too, has the loss of our basic human fundamental for discernment. The lotto and microwave mentality seems to have caused people to lose their basic foundations for decision making and through it all we seem to not understand what a leader looks like any more.
First and most obvious, a basic characteristic of a leader is having followers – you cannot be a leader of one. However, if a leader can’t lead one, they can’t lead many. Thus, personal accountability is the bedrock foundation of a leader; simply put, they just do not blame others or circumstances.
A leader’s greatest asset is their followers and eventually they will become defined by this group of people, who ultimately determine the character of the leadership. The weakness of many followers is blind loyalty. Many people are following individuals who possess charisma but lack personal accountability – this is how “cults” are created.
Remember, just because an individual has people following them, does not qualify them as a leader. A leader’s actions result in positive effects on others and society – make the comparison of Hitler and Jesus, were they both leaders? There is no doubt both had a following, but a following is not the qualifier but rather an ingredient of a leader. The best definition for leadership I have ever read came from author Richard Barrett: “someone who courageously pursues a vision is such a way that it resonates with the souls of people.” This definition separates between a cult following and a true leader.
The values of true leadership are found in the following traits:
Humility – They push credit to others and do not possess the “I” syndrome; the leader understands their greatest asset is the people who follow thus all the credit belongs to them.
Visionary – The leader can cast a vision that is much more than charismatic communication – the people perish without vision.
Inspirational – Leaders cause their followers to accomplish things that they never thought they could; inspiration is lasting versus motivation which is like a good shower: “you come clean but two hours later you’re dirty again.”
Courage – Is not a virtue but rather the sum total of all virtues.
Responsible – They don’t blame others for their inability to achieve results.
Work Ethic – A leader will never ask someone to do something that they aren’t willing to do themselves.
If the greatest asset of a leader is those who follow, then what makes a FOLLOWER? Crazed, lunatic mentality (though they are following someone) is not the character of followers who are supporting a real leader, though the line to distinguish can sometimes seem blurry. These character traits of quality followers will make that determination more clear:
Loyalty – There is no such thing as a follower who is not loyal however “blind loyalty” is their greatest weakness. Ownership is the difference. For example, the defensive coordinator for the football team must be loyal to the head coach but not be a yes man. Once they develop the game plan, he must take ownership of it and execute with faith regardless of his personal feelings.
Teachable – The follower is open to learning and executing new opportunities; they listen, learn and execute with excellence.
Understanding – They seek wisdom not as criticism but to avoid “blind loyalty.” They know that questioning in a positive and respectful manner is what a real leader appreciates.
Reliable – They do what they say. What is a follower if they cannot be dependable?
Attraction – It is the follower, not the leader, who attracts more followers. This is probably the most missed and misunderstood value of leadership – it is the followers who grow the organization; it is the leader who leads it.
The followers and leaders of our society are necessary parts of any culture. They have purpose and are seeking the higher ground for themselves and all others. There has always been another group in every culture and it seems with the information revolution that this group is growing faster than any other group – they are the “losers” of our society. Sorry, I know that is not politically correct, but the truth is not PC.
The biggest value these people can seem to find for their lives is to try and find what is wrong with others. The internet has created a platform for every loser of society to have a voice and even more interestingly is how this empowerment has trickled over to the traditional media sources under the guise of “Freedom of speech.” Journalism, for the most part, has been substituted for entertainment value and personal agendas.
You can always tell this group by their positions and attitudes. Here are four syndromes that will identify these people with ease:
Blame Game Syndrome – It is always someone else’s fault or a set of circumstances that is the problem.
Tear Down Syndrome – These people twist false realities and perceptions of others in an attempt to raise their status. They tear down someone else’s house instead of focusing on their own house. These people add no or little value, thus there is nothing to communicate about them so they tear others down to justify themselves.
Whoa Is Me Syndrome – This is the poor, pitiful person who is trying to do better but the big, bad people of the world cause them all the problems. Lately, their biggest target is the rich. They believe the rich suppress you, rather than understanding the rich accomplished something the loser is unwilling to do for themselves.
Crabology Syndrome – The crabs in the bucket do not need a cover; as one begins to crawl up the wall and go free the other crabs reach up and pull it back into the bucket. Losers are always trying to pull those who are seeking freedom back into the pits of mediocrity.
Ignorance is the lack of knowledge and can be forgiven; however, stupidity is having the knowledge and behaving as a loser anyway. You can’t lead stupid!