A few days ago a junior aspiring “leadership consultant” sent me a request to mentor him indicating, among other characteristics of his, the fact of being “Submissive to Authority”. Having worked in his part of the World as leadership trainer I recognized a trait of the local culture - one that causes a lot of problems, by the way, I know that he was trying to please me and show that he was ready to take the position of mentee according to his cultural background. Certainly this did not “conquer” me. But it also kick-started some reflection within myself: I felt upset by such expression of submission, and tempted to react strongly. Why? Then I got the answer.
As a Leadership trainer and inspirer I struggle every day with the poor Leadership culture of our world. There are armies of bosses and bullies, people in power and people “of power”, but very few Leaders, and this is one of the causes of the grim situation of humanity nowadays.
Current culture makes more and more people willing to accept any condition, including “submission” and acceptance of whatever formatting-of-the-mind, in exchange for a job. Cannot honestly blame them, with the threat of unemployment and the continuous waves of crisis spreading fear all around. I can also comprehend those who seek a career and have been raised to think that in order to have the best one you have to go with the flow of mainstream out-of-Business-School culture and kiss the ass to the most powerful boss you can find around.
But one who looks around for hiring scared yes-people is certainly not a Leader: he/she can at the most be a “boss”, someone who will never achieve the best performance wth his team because he/she will forever be limited to his own intelligence, no matter how great that is.
Leaders don’t hire yes-people. Why would you hire someone who does not add to your capacity with new ideas? Someone who is at most “best at what is already known”?
What a real Leader pursues is to change the status-quo of his/her industry (or field of activity, doesn’t matter) and breakthrough into excellence, improving by a quantum leap the Value added for his/her stakeholders. That’s the aim of a Leader.
Who is better at challenging the status-quo than a revolutionary? I am not talking of “rebels-no-matter-what”; they can be destructive. But “revolutionaries” are those who are unhappy with how things are. When they find a great leader they can achieve whatever goal they set, because their motivation is unwavering.
Why making a myth of Steve Jobs and forgetting that his “Stay foolish, stay hungry” motto was exactly an exhortation to keep alive the revolutionary spirit that brought Apple under Jobs to change the status-quo of, for example, music fruition, just to name one of his achievements?
A boss in the CD industry would have been confirmed every day by the praise of his yes-people that his ideas were the best ones and never made a giant leap forward, setting new standards in the industry and gaining a competitive advantage of years.
Stay foolish, you aspiring Leader, and be bold enough to hire revolutionaries who will challenge yourself every day to have enough Leadership to keep feeding their unwavering motivation and achieve breakthrough results.
Feed their motivation and foster their expansion in intelligence, thirst for knowledge, curiosity, vision and aspirations. You’d be rewarded with more than gold: by being surrounded by the best people that you could ever want to have by your side to face the challenges of life.
In the meantime, be happy and keep them happy by living a life rich in human relations, respect, inspiration and some humour. This is the icing on the cake that great Leaders know how to do better than anyone else.