What is True Leadership?
Lead by inspiration and example or lead through fear and intimidation. Lead from the front and guide and inspire people toward goal and accomplishment. Or lead from the back and kick, shove and push them forward. As a CEO, manager, supervisor or company boss, which of these methods is the one you use?
Well, if ever there were a more distinct difference in philosophy and ideology in any subject or topic on planet Earth, it’s the two described in the preceding paragraph. There’s no equivocating or quibbling about it. If leadership is a matter of style, we have two seriously contrasting styles of leadership here.
However, despite their extreme difference, I guarantee you that either style or method of leading will get results. But I can also guarantee you that one method usually gets only marginal and lackluster results. While the other almost always earns excellent, outstanding or incredible results! Why? Simple: the path to success is led by a leader you respect, admire and want to follow! Seldom by a leader you fear and hate.
Case in point: General George Armstrong Custer.
Say what you will about General Custer regarding his poor treatment of Native Americans and poor knowledge and application of combat strategy and tactics. When it came to leadership, he was nonpareil. While attending West Point and studying to become an officer in the U.S. Army, he had the poorest grades and attendance of any in his class. Finally, a board of deans and senior officers convened to decide his fate, and many were leaning toward expulsion.
But before they cast their vote, an NCO (an enlisted man) present at the meeting stood up and spoke out: “Regardless of Mr. Custer’s poor academic record and many demerits, this much I can tell you: There’s not a man in this school—myself included—who would not follow him through the gates of hell!”
Thus, began the sometimes-glorious, sometimes-awful military career of General George Armstrong Custer. Maybe a poor general. But a brave and true leader!
For this is leadership. True leadership. To lead from the front and endure every hardship, every suffering, every test and challenge your soldiers, your employees, your team, your followers have to face. For every general and every CEO who is a true leader, this is what they do. Woman or man, short in statue or tall in height, it makes no difference. A leader leads. A good leader, a true leader leads best.
I remember my good friend Patrick telling me once about the time he had to get a team of men to clear out a large ditch of piping on a construction site that he was working. It had been raining for days and the ditch was a foot deep in mud and water—and the rain continued to pour down.
The men stood before him, and he had hoped he would think of something inspiring to say to motivate them to leap into the horrendous ditch and start digging. But he could think of nothing to say; no fancy words came to mind. So, he grabbed a shovel and jumped into the ditch and started digging. Suddenly, within seconds, one man after another followed him into the muddy hole and began digging alongside him. And they worked together in respectful silence until the job was completed.
So yeah, this is leadership. True leadership. And this is how it is done!