What is a definition of a leader? And why is it that leaders are successful in the short term but fail in the long term?
I get asked the question of a definition lot by business owners. ‘What am I supposed to do ask’ most.
There are many definitions. None of which will help you be a real leader. The thing about theory is that it sounds great when you read it, but it has a lot to be desired when put into practice. I know this because like everyone one else I tried to put what I read into practice and, well, let’s just say the results were rubbish. Seriously it was spectacularly awful.
So, I was a bit stumped. What to do? Well, I did what we all should do but often don’t. Ask someone who is superior in brains and intellect than you. Now that is hard because we seem to think we have the biggest brains and the largest intellect. Well, I do. And as a result, my wife thinks I am an imbecile. And she might not be wrong.
Anyway, this is what I was told.
The job of a leader is simple. Do 3 things:
- See the future.
- Then influence, cajole, inspire, encourage and do whatever is necessary to make people believe in that future.
- Grow those same people and give them the confidence to do things they thought they were incapable of doing.
The problem? The leader has to and must walk the talk. Otherwise, all that hard work fails. Spectacularly.
It is also the reason why most leaders succeed in the short term but fail in the long term.
A few weeks ago on a hot a sticky night in Brisbane I was waiting outside a restaurant in my car for a takeaway. It was hot so the car was running with the AC on.
After a few minutes I was asked to lower my window and asked very politely if ‘I could switch my engine off to save the environment.’ She even acknowledged that it was a hot night and I might consider being a bit uncomfortable for the environment.
Now I know many of you will think of this person as an ecomentalist crazy ‘save the environment nut.’ She wasn’t. She was very pleasant and very nice. She did what every great leader does. She made me believe and undertake an action I would not normally do. I switched off my engine.
Here’s why. I am not a crazy ecomentalist but I care about the environment and knew we all have to do our bit and change our ways.
Well, a few minutes later she jumped into an Uber and went on her way. This probably did more damage to the environment that day then my idling car. I half expected her to be using peddle power on a pushbike and if she is willing to tell me what to do she has to do over and beyond what she was asking me to do.
And that made me angry. Very angry. Because in my mind I was expected to give up my convenience but it was Ok for her if she did not. And so my engine restarted and next time I am waiting I don’t think I will switch it off. The incident had the reverse effect in the long term.
And that is why most leaders fail. It is the reason why most business leaders fail in leadership. The team they are leading loses the belief because the leader does not believe the rules apply to all.
They don’t or are not seen to walk the talk. The rules are different for them. The rules are different for their families who work in the business. The standards for leaders are different to the rest of the team.
And if that is the case leaders will only be successful for the short term. Never the long term.
And the excuse is that we own the business. So we can do what we want. But what we forget is that as business owners we use a team to make more money. And if we are prepared to follow the same rules as them, we would make a hell of a lot more.
So if you are prepared to walk the talk, you might get what you want. More money. And probably more time too.