For years we have promoted people in organizations to leadership positions because they have one of two things going for them. They have been there for a while or they were good at their previous job.
Little or no consideration is given to their demonstrated leadership ability. And to make matters worse, many of these same organizations give these new “leaders” almost no leadership training.
Then people wonder why these leaders aren’t getting the best results. The answer is simple. They are not “leaders”; they are imposters. A person does not become a leader simply because he obtains a title.
I propose a new approach. Start with a clear definition of strong, healthy, and effective leadership, then see how people compare to that definition. You will soon see who the real leaders are and who the imposters are. From my experience, perspective, and research, I would say that true leaders exhibit certain characteristics.
Chief: Win with others and share the credit.
In other words, real leaders are much more focused on building a team where everyone wins and not just the so-called leader. As leadership author John C. Maxwell writes, “If I want to do something good, I can do it myself. If I want to do something BIG, I’m going to have to build a team.
True leaders win with others. Educator G. Arthur Keough says, “Greatness is not in standing above our fellow men and commanding them. It’s to stand by them and help them be all they can be.
A true leader wins with others and shares the credit. A true leader gives a lot of credit to the team they have built or helped build.
That’s why I cringe when I hear an impostor “leader” go on and say “I did this…and…I did that”. Imposters let their ego, greed, lust for power, competitive spirit and selfish attitude take center stage.
Are you good at winning with others? At work and at home? After all, Dr. William W. Mayo, founder of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, reminds us that “no one is big enough to be independent of others.”
Dr. Mayo is absolutely correct. “No one is big enough to be independent of others.” That’s why coaching has proven to be such a powerful tool for enabling people to take big steps forward, personally and professionally. And that’s why I save room in my schedule to work with a small number of people who want one-on-one coaching from me.
Chief: Demonstrates an unwavering positive attitude.
Impostor: Simply sits on the face.
In other words, they give off energy. They show enthusiasm. They project cheerfulness. And it’s just contagious
I’m sure you’ve met leaders like that. No matter what’s going on, you’ve noticed that the leader’s department is filled with motivated, excited, and connected people. You may even have wished to be part of this department…because it is natural to be drawn to such high energy levels.
Of course, an unwavering positive attitude does not eliminate all fear. It just keeps you going and allows you to move past the fear. This is how Mayor Rudy Guiliani handled the 9/11 disaster. He projected a positive image because he knew a key truth. As he said, “pessimistic leaders always fail.”
Continuing his comments, Guiliani said, “In a crisis, you have to be optimistic and bring hope to others. Shortly after 9/11, I said the spirit of the city would be stronger. At the time, I didn’t know it was certain. . Deep down I had doubts. I had to chase them away and not listen to those doubts. If you let fear, worry and doubt overwhelm you, you will lose the battle.
A true leader demonstrates an unwavering positive attitude when things are going well and not so well. Imposters, on the other hand, are all bluster and image. Take a look at the dictators who have made the news in recent years. They have no problem stopping or even killing their opponents, looking powerful on the outside. But when cornered, they’re just cowards. That’s what imposters do.
Chief: Accept responsibility.
Impostor: Always find someone to blame.
A true leader accepts responsibility for good and evil. As Lain Clark, an executive at AEGON Scotland and a client of mine, says, “Leaders accept responsibility for the decisions they make and take full responsibility for the failures that result”.
Of course, it takes a certain degree of humility to be a leader who accepts responsibility. But people respect leaders who are willing to say, “I was wrong. I am sorry. But we will do better next time.
Unfortunately, it’s much more common to see ego-driven impostors who take all the credit when one of their decisions works out well. And when one of their decisions turns out to be wrong or even disastrous, they can’t be tracked down, shut up or blame someone else for their failures.
And employees stay with an owner, president, or CEO who is honest enough and brave enough to say, “My reorganization plan didn’t work out the way I had hoped. I accept responsibility for my wrong decision and ask for your support to change things.
Such a bold move boosts morale in almost any organization, and the people within it recognize that they have a real leader at the helm, and not an impostor.
Chief: Do the right thing.
Impostor: Do the politically advantageous thing.
As I often say in my 4C leadership program, “True leaders do the right thing, not because they think it will change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world. .”
Notice the emphasis on the word do. It is not enough to KNOW what is right. You must also have the courage of your convictions and DO what is right. Even when no one is watching. And even if it will cost you something.
In contrast, imposters may not even know what is right. And if they know, they may not if they can move forward or gain an advantage by taking a different course of action.
In other words, true leaders focus their energy on doing the right thing…instead of spending all their time on the superficialities of “looking good” and “looking good”. True leaders are guided by a strong moral compass instead of a skilled artist.
Chief: Has character.
Impostor: Is a character.
While it’s true that people are more willing to work with people they know and like, it’s even more true that they’re much more willing to follow people of impeccable character.
John Wooden, the greatest basketball coach of all time, knew that. He was more than a sports coach. He was a true leader on and off the pitch, who continually told his players and audience, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is who you really are, while your reputation is only what others think you are. ”
When your people demonstrate character, they become true leaders who are dependable, consistent, and care about others, no strings attached.
A true leader is real and authentic. An impostor does not possess any of these things.
Imposters, on the other hand, put a different face on their bosses, colleagues, clients, friends, and family members. After a while, you don’t know who they really are because they’re more of a character and a caricature than anything else.
Chief: Establishes win-win relationships.
Impostor: Use people.
That doesn’t mean a true leader has to be friends with everyone on the team or in the organization. It may not even be possible, let alone wise.
However, a true leader is at the forefront, building strong, positive, respectful, cooperative, and win-win relationships with many people. Imposters can hide in their offices or behind a computer, limiting themselves to a few “chosen” people to interact with.
Maybe deep down, the imposters are scared. After all, building relationships takes time, which they may not be willing to invest. And building relationships requires talent, which they may not have or may not be willing to learn.
To be a true leader, establish helping relationships. As National Guard client Tom Coleman points out, “Success is using and sharing your experiences to help others achieve their goals.”
And client Ed Caldwell, vice president of Protective Life, talks about how the true leaders of his career set him up for success. “I have been fortunate to have four mentors and bosses over the past 30 years who have taken the time to build a relationship with me, who have given me candid feedback on the differences between leadership and management, and provided me with specific guidance at key moments in my career. These relationships created what I consider to be the real turning points in my personal and professional development.”
Snow magazine contributor Dr. Alan Zimmerman is a business coach who works with companies to focus on transforming the people side of business.