We Set A Low Bar For Leadership

Stop calling managers leaders if they can’t manage themselves.

It’s crazy that we are so badly in need of leadership that we have lowered our standards to such an incredible degree. Look at what passes for leadership now days. We throw around that word so much and it is such an easy badge to be anointed and to anoint ourselves.

We want it so bad. We look around and we want to be inspired. We want to see that leader who makes us jump up and want to take notice. We watch the news and pray for leadership.

You do not lead by hitting people over the head, – that’s assault, not leadership.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Especially in these times when the world has turned a bit upside down and our daily lives have changed dramatically. We want leadership. Since there is so little leadership out there within plain view, we lower our standards to such a degree that if you sound a bit like a leader, we will take that. Sound a bit authoritative, or like you know what you are doing, or even half way confident and we perk up and take notice. Look there is a leader, well they sound like a leader at least.

Quit setting the bar low for leaders

Here is the deal. If a person can’t manage themselves, they are no leader. That isn’t the only thing needed to be a leader but it is one of the foundational things needed.

I’ll say it again, because I think it is so important, if a person can’t manage themselves, they are no leader. They may be a manager, but they are not a leader.

That doesn’t make you a bad person. Self management is an important skill and one that can be learned. Check out my LinkedIn article, Self Management : First Lead And Inspire Yourself for a primer on how to develop this important set of competencies.

As well as being important for the single contributor, self management is a foundational part of being a good manager and leader. Before you can lead you must learn to manage. If you can’t manage yourself then you’ll never be an effective leader.

Why should anyone listen to us as a leader, if we can’t manage ourselves first?

The answer is, of course, they shouldn’t. You wouldn’t and neither should they.

So, please quit throwing out the title leader to people who just aren’t there yet. I know we’ve created a world where the word manager seems like a dirty word. It’s in so many job titles and yet, we still vilify this word. Only leaders are worthy of praise. And don’t get me wrong, I love that we moved to a world where we are aspiring to be leaders and not just pushing around people like papers on our desks.

And it isn’t that leadership is easy. It isn’t. We are just too quick to bestow the word of leader on someone, when all we’ve done is lower the bar too low.

Your position never gives you the right of command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others may receive your orders without being humiliated.

– Dag Hammarskjold

Keep aspiring. I worked hard to be a leader and not just a manager. Many people put a lot of time and attention into trying to get it right. They make entire careers out of becoming a better leader.

Management doesn’t have to be a dirty word

We also have to recognize that management is something we need at times as well. This is a skill. And it is certainly a stage that most have to go through on their road to becoming a leader. You don’t just get there without a lot of hard work, development, feedback and adhering to principles.

Let’s just stop with calling everyone a leader. It lowers the bar too much. It makes many people think they can easily do it. Or it begins to distort what real leadership qualities look like. This is how many incompetent people seem to end up in high level positions.

Leadership is a posture and a choice, not a role that must be bestowed on you. Step up and be a leader when no one is watching or expecting you to do so.

– John Izzo & Marshall Goldsmith

When we really think about it we know what real leadership looks like. We see it around us in so many small ways. I know so many people who are leaders in their lives and to others, without ever having been given the title.

There is a quiet leadership revolution that is happening and it is time for it to be given more of a voice. A time when being a leader and demonstrating through actions of competence, empathy, thoughtfulness, intelligence, ethics and principles are given more weight than sounding confident and full of bravado while shouting down others.

A leader is a dealer in hope.

– Napoleon Bonaparte

Here is to the hope that more people cultivate the leader within. The more we demand of ourselves, the more our leaders will have to do to gain our respect.

I am a dealer in hope. Will join me?

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