Scanning headlines, popular literature, and reflecting upon what my colleagues and I experience on a daily basis, I am struck by how many leaders (managers included) have seem to either have forgotten, never learned, or are too self-absorbed to get it. It, being the Golden Rule of leadership: Leading others is a privilege that is earned, not a right. Leaders who understand that leading others is a privilege understand that leading, first and foremost, is about service.
Why is it that so many leaders seem to forget that leading others more than any thing else should be held in reverence? Sure, you might have earned the role—late nights, played the political games just right—and maybe you legitimately deserve the leadership chalice. Congrats. However, being the leader does not always mean you deserve to be the leader. And just because you are the leader does not mean you have a right to lead others. You have been granted the privilege to lead others. Being the leader means that you have been placed in a position to serve others—your customers, investors, your team, and the employees who are part of the company or division you run.
I recently recalled a quote whose source I cannot remember that so aptly distilled what I think is the essence of great leadership. The quote was from an ex-military man who leads survival courses. The quote went something like this: “Real leaders forget about themselves and instinctively react in the interest of their team.” I wonder how many leaders, when things get rough, when the politics get nasty, when the share price takes a hit, instinctively react with a “me” or a “we”? Too many times I have seen leaders duck and cover, throw their people under the bus, throw their positional weight around and instead of leading from a place of service, lead from a place of ego.