Run while you can

If the definition of a leader is followers then you’d have to say that in the 1970s that’s what David Bowie certainly was. He led a generation of followers in music and culture, and continues to do so even today, at 67. Reading in The Guardian an article by John Savage this month he talks of Bowie “Bowie had become a leader but, as he had written, the leader is always deserted by his followers. The trick was to withdraw before they deserted you.

Having a coffee with my friend Jas Singh the other day we talked of different people we knew who had had an influence on us, for better or for worse. What drives a person to promise much but deliver so little was the theme of our talk. What are the drivers for those leaders who, in the end, only want the temporary thrill of having followers.

Now, I’m certainly not implying this about Bowie! How could I?

Wishing Steps at Blarney Castle, Ireland
We can wish what we like of a leader, but reality might be quite different – Wishing Steps at Blarney Castle, Ireland

I’ve been following his music for almost 40 years and his “abandonment” as it were, has always been for one sub-style to another and us fans have always followed.  And he has never disappointed or let us down!

Do we need the security of a leader who promises us much? At a time and place, probably. In the end, we’re better off searching out our own promises and making them happen.

A true leader won’t be leading you up the path just for their own gratification, but rather for a true realisation of something for all. And there’s a good chance that such a genuine leader won’t tell you all that stuff, the candy, that makes you want to follow.

What is your leadership goal? As leader for yourself, or really as leader of others for a bigger purpose?

And what is your followship goal?  For someone to do what you aren’t brave enough to do for yourself? Run while you can is my advice.

In the end the fake leader who’s only there for themselves is just like the needy follower. Despite what we might be told about leadership, actually finding the genuine leader will be difficult and we can all expect to be let down at times. There’s unfortunately plenty of fake leaders out there.


Being Number One

I’ve been hearing quite a lot lately about the desire to be Number One. “My goal is to get to the top” or “I want to be number one”. Ambition can drive us to achieve remarkable things both in leadership roles and in our personal quests. What comes first: the goal to get to the top or the the desire to achieve or do the things that can make a difference at the top?

I was fortunate enough to be at a function recently where graduating students were having their final celebrations. Prizes were awarded for top marks. Speeches were made about achievement.

I have goals, both personal and professional and those goals help to guide my actions and, I hope, the meaning that my actions bring. Striving to achieve a goal can bring real focus and attention to what matters, not just doing the “things” that need to be done.

If my only goal was to be “number one” for whatever that means, now might be a good time to pause and reflect on what it will mean to be top dog; who is it for; and what purpose can only be achieved by getting to this place.

I might also think about who I’m wanting to be Number One for. And think about who is watching and why I need them to notice that I’m going for the top.

Not much was said in the achievement speeches about doing what has purpose and making a difference through new skills. Or leading others to grow. I left with a feeling that what was admired was the pursuit of going to the the top over and above what that might mean.

Being number one. We already all are in our own world. Wise leaders know that and use what they bring to add meaning and purpose to those around them.

Without worrying about what others are thinking about position or title.