Authentic Leaders or Ego-Maniacs?
Nearly twenty years have passed since Foxwoods Resort Casino opened. Twenty years of pioneering spirit, unprecedented growth, successes, failures, tenacity and challenging life lessons for this tiny wooded Indian reservation in Southeastern Connecticut. Today as we continue navigating through this global economic recession, $2.3 billion dollars in debt, financial and organizational restructuring, we are faced with yet another year of tribal council elections. And, like it or not, the days of the “what’s-in-it-for-me” popularity contests and “good-ol-boy” clubs must come to an end. We are now faced with a sobering reality:
Electing qualified, authentic leadership is critically important for the future of our tribe.
With so many people aspiring for leadership positions these days, how do we identify the authentic leaders- those who are “naturals” at leadership…passionate, selfless, and committed to the community…the ones who are seeking election for all the right reasons?
You’ll find the “authentic” leaders working painstakingly to accomplish their goals. They aren’t necessarily holding leadership positions, but no matter what their role is in the community authentic leaders are able to extend positive influence effectively to others around them. Are they perfect? Absolutely not. But they don’t let their mistakes stop them. They pull themselves up by their boot-straps. They are the ones who learn from their failures and grow from them.
Authentic leaders tend to their responsibilities, keep up with community issues, understand budgeting, are abstract thinkers, and find potential solutions to difficult problems. They have a strong sense of values and stand for what they believe in with a quiet confidence. They are influential because they keep it real. They walk the walk. They are the ones who naturally rise to the top.
Authentic leaders are the ones for whom success often has its “double edge”, because those who inspire and influence others are also the targets for suspicion, criticism and gossip. Their natural abilities, quiet confidence, and favor with others usually challenge the most insecure people.
On the flip side, there are,…well,…snakes-in-the-grass to watch out for. Those who want a leadership position just to fuel their egos. To gain that important title. To command attention. To wield power.
Some have trouble “fitting in” anywhere else. Some are rebellious – disrespectful to authority unless they get something valuable out of it. Others believe that anything less than a leadership position is beneath them. Some might have an axe to grind – fueled by an old grudge, a desire to “get even”. And for others, it may be as simple as wanting a bigger paycheck.
So how can you tell the difference between candidates possessing authentic leadership potential and candidates who strive for a leadership position for all the wrong reasons?
The following is an adapted excerpt from author and leadership expert John Maxwell’s leadership blog. (The full blog can be viewed here: www.johnmaxwellonleadership.com)
Leaders Who Rely on a Position to Lead Will Often Devalue People
People who rely on position almost always place a very high value on holding onto that position—often above everything else they do. Their position is more important to them than the work they do, the value they add to their people, or their contribution to the community.
This kind of attitude does nothing to promote good relationships with people. In fact, positional leaders often see their people as an annoyance, as interchangeable pawns on an organizational chessboard, or even as troublesome obstacles to their goal of getting what they want.
As a result, communities that have positional leaders suffer terrible morale.
Positional Leaders Feed on Politics
When leaders value position over the ability to influence others, the environment usually becomes very political. There is a lot of maneuvering. Positional leaders focus on control instead of contribution. They work to gain titles and special recognition. They often do what they can to get the largest staff and the biggest budget they can—not for the sake of the community they serve, but for the sake of expanding and defending their turf.
And when a positional leader is able to do this, it often incites others to do the same because they worry that the positional leaders’ gains will be their loss. Not only does it create a vicious cycle of gamesmanship, posturing, and maneuvering, but it also fuels envy and rivalry.
Positional Leaders Place Entitlements Over Responsibilities
Poet T.S. Eliot asserted, “Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important…they do not mean to do harm…they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
That’s what positional leaders do: they do whatever they can to make themselves look and feel important.
Positional leaders develop a sense of entitlement. They demand political loyalty in exchange for careers, opportunities and benefits. They expect people to serve them, rather than looking for ways to serve their people. They value territory over teamwork. They control as much as possible. They emphasize rules and regulations that are to their advantage and change whatever rules that are not.
Its your turn…. what qualities do you look for in an authentic leader? Have you seen examples of positional leaders?