The leader described drew reactions ranging from "he's clearly not a leader" to (my paraphrase) "He could have been better, but he was a good leader".
Why the bi-polar responses to the same leadership story?
Because each of us has an idea of what is "right". And what's right bubbles up from the inner depths of how we think things should be. That can be very useful, since it creates a gap that shows where there might be potential for improvement.
But it can also cause an overpowering idealism that clouds or ignores the many realities of a situation. If the idealistic power is so great, one's ability to see clearly can become vastly distorted. If so, the willingness to understand, empathize, and forgive is often replaced with selfishness and callous judgmentalism.
Business leadership is especially prone to this phenomenon. While millions are reading and writing about the way things could be and should be, those in leadership roles still have to "do it." And they have to do it while finding some way to at least minimally satisfy the myriad and idiosyncratic needs of shareholders, boards of directors, regulatory agencies, managers, and employees. At the same time, they have families to care for complete with PTA meetings, ball games, health issues, and the inevitable deaths of loved ones.
So here is my suggestion for a healthier view of leadership and a way to bring additional peace into your own working life:
Start humanizing leaders using the same lens of reality and forgiveness with which you view your own humanity.
At the same time, stop demonizing them by making them actors whose "role" is defined in light of the ideal that exists only between the covers of popular books.
The books are about potential. So are people.
We'll look at the impact of the leadership "movement", whether or not the leader-follower label is a dichotomy or a relationship, and then, to honor John's endeavor , a peek into the "suckiness" factor.
A word of thanks to Alex the Chief Happiness Officer , the always-brainy Dr. Robyn McMaster , real-life executive Dean Fuhrmann, thought leader Peter Vajda, and the coach who will accelerate your momentum, Joan Schramm, for the thoughtful comments that added to this post. And to Galba Bright: the followers will follow shortly.
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