Defending Leadership

Note: This post was originally posted as "What If Leadership Was More Than A Buzzword?" on my N2Growth blog in July of 2010.  The question is still valid.

What if “Leadership” was more than a buzzword? What If…What if leadership was more than just another contentious term bantered around in meaningless conversations? What if leadership was truly understood, modeled, and actually experienced as the rule and not the exception? In the text that follows I’ll  answer these questions and hopefully encourage you to reevaluate how you view the practice of leadership…

Have you ever felt as if  the term “leadership” has a bulls-eye painted on it? Well, it’s because it does – the very mention of the word leadership seems to draw fire from increasingly large numbers these days. The term has been inappropriately hi-jacked by the politically correct who mock it, the avant-garde who belittle it, the naive who discount it, and the public at large seems to be growing tired of hearing about it. I’m befuddled by this dismissive attitude, and am left wondering how we could have arrived at such a place – how could something so valuable be trivialized by so many?

Why does all this matter? Because leadership matters…Whether through malice or naivete, those who trivialize the value of leadership place us all at risk…Poor leadership cripples businesses, ruins economies, destroys families, loses wars, and can bring the demise of nations. The demand for true leaders has never been greater -   when society misunderstands the importance of leadership, and when the world inappropriately labels non-leaders as leaders we are all worse for the wear.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason so many attempt to ridicule leadership is twofold: 1.) The masses of feigned leaders in the public eye make it easy to do so, and; 2.) Real leaders tend to practice their craft quietly, and with great humility, often going unnoticed in the public eye.

By my definition, leaders are not self-promoting, pseudo celebrities whose propensity for personal achievement and media attention far outweigh their true contributions. Rather than focus on the braggarts that litter the media with their personal triumphs, or the charlatans who provide constant reminders of failed leadership, we need to focus our attention on the true leaders who quietly walk among us each day…ethical business people, soldiers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, principled educators, pastors & theologians, medical practitioners, responsible parents, student achievers, volunteers, statesmen (notice I didn’t say politicians), good Samaritans, and the every day hard working American citizen. These are the real leaders who through their personal sacrifice, committed service, and selfless acts who deserve our respect and attention.

Focus our attention on the true leaders who quietly walk among us each day…ethical business people, soldiers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, principled educators, pastors & theologians, medical practitioners, responsible parents, student achievers, volunteers, statesmen, good Samaritans, and the every day hard working American citizen

So my challenge to you is this…the next time someone demeans the value of leadership in an attempt to show how cool or intelligent they are, stand your ground, engage, educate and inform them of the value of leadership, and don’t let them denigrate the value of leadership. But most of all, I would encourage you to engage in the practice of modeling true leadership - when all is said and done, it is your actions not your words that will demonstrate your true beliefs.

I’d hope that what’s been espoused above sets the stage for an active dialogue in comments below. This is a subject that deserves a serious conversation by serious people. I welcome your thoughts and observations…