The Lost Art of Leadership

by Bill Purdin

In our current industrial modality of making money, the art of leadership may have become a forgotten concept, lost in the dust of lucre.

When all you need to make money is a greed beyond all others, leadership becomes just aggression. This hard-charging-almost-mindlessly rapacious capitalism without regard to others becomes the chariot on fire; the measure of senseless success. Slash and burn avarice in America is leaving a sad trail of social and cultural disasters, but who will accept responsibility? Accepting responsibility? Another bygone concept. Here are some more concepts of the forgotten past of great leadership. Where have all the flowers gone?

  • Never blame a subordinate for something that went wrong on your watch.
  • Always put the well being of others above your own.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Success is, after all, always a team effort.
  • Take a genuine personal interest in the welfare of people around you, especially your employees.
  • Make decisions promptly.
  • Be a teacher and mentor. Always teach only the right thing to do. “Don’t do that” is not teaching.
  • Be fair to all, no favorites.
  • Expect people to do their best and allow for people to make mistakes. If your plans cannot withstand a mistake or two along the way, then it’s the plan that is the problem.
  • Leadership is not a commodity, it is an art, and it takes true talent and unselfishness to be a real leader.

Leaders build consensus with vision and, most importantly, by setting a good example. If your team is not really a team, it’s your fault. If you don’t see that, people won’t see you as a leader. People want and deserve respect. A true leader knows this. Insensitivity, aloofness and arrogance, untrustworthiness, uncontrolled ambition, inability to delegate and build teamwork, bad hiring, lack of a clear strategy, and constant self-referentiality are all hallmarks of bad leadership. They are the easy-to-spot signs of someone who has no business in a leadership role.

True leaders are exceptionally hard to find today. The hallmarks of bad leadership are everywhere. Credentials are just proclamations of paper worth in the place of true performance that needs no paper. Americans need to demand a higher form of leadership in our government, our companies, our organizations, and in our own lives. Leadership is a team enterprise and in great organizations it is found at all levels, from the maintenance team all the way to the corner office.

Leadership is an art and it needs people with creativity and vision to practice it. When we finally stop accepting the cheap imitations over the real thing, then things will get better.

The best definition leadership: “The highest destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule.” — Albert Einstein.


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