April 6

What Leadership is NOT

If you truly want to understand what Leadership is, then it may first be helpful to understand what Leadership is NOT. For example, Leadership is not:

  1. having the right, in-born temperament (i.e. “born to lead”)
  2. being a good project manager and getting things done
  3. possessing or displaying the typical “icons” of success (i.e. bright, shiny objects): financial, academic, athletic, political or spiritual achievements

While these things may be admirable and helpful to leadership, they are not leadership. This begs the question: why are these things mistaken as signs of Leadership?

Further, why does so much of the “leadership training” that takes up billions of dollars every year deliver such poor results?

First, we live in a culture that is largely built on “lip service” — lots of talk, but little execution. And what actions are taken are more exteriorly focused, when attention must first start interiorly. As the saying goes, know thyself…or as we may say: First, LEAD thyself, then you can lead others.

Why do I believe this to be true? Well, a lack of a certain temperament, the ability to complete a lot of work or possession of one or more shiny objects doesn’t impede a person’s ability to lead; rather, a lack of character will. 

Last week we defined leadership as executing mission and building strength to execute your mission more successfully. Where does strength come from? Character

What are your thoughts? What has your experience with prior “leadership training” been like, and the popular mistakes we listed? Do you have anything you might add?

About the author 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is Co-Founder of the Authentic Leadership Institute. He is a native Texan and a graduate of Dallas Jesuit and Texas A&M University. Over the past 25 years, Darren has visited 35 countries and led 100 strategy programs. He and his wife have five children.


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