The Biggest Leadership Myth

Sam Silverstein Blog

In recent years, a lot of people have fallen prey to a dangerous myth, the myth of something called “self-leadership.”

Supposedly, “self-leadership” is all about taking responsibility for developing your own capacity and your own communication skills. Supposedly, it’s all about you focusing with more and more clarity over time on where you are going and how you’re going to get there. I have no problem with any of that. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on personal growth, and there’s nothing wrong with committing yourself to a path of personal development. I have a big problem with the label.

Something strange, and damaging to ourselves and our organizations, can happen when we call that process of personal development “self-leadership.” All too often, we end up focusing a little too much on the “self” part of that formula.

There is no such thing as “self-leadership.” It’s an imaginary construct.

To be a leader, what do you need – by definition? Followers! If there are no followers in the equation, then there’s no leadership happening, and there’s no potential for accountability from the leader to the follower. Period. Ignoring that – by pretending that leadership somehow entitles us to focus on ourselves as individuals, and not on our accountability to others – can lead to huge problems.

IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

Here’s the hard truth about leadership – leadership is never about you. It’s always about the people you lead.

One of the major challenges in our society today is that people are trying to make leadership all about themselves. They think, “Oh – I’m the leader now. That means I get a special parking place.” Or: “I’m the leader now. I get to use the corporate jet.” Or: “I’m the leader now. I get to treat people however I want.” This way of thinking is rampant. Maybe you’ve noticed it.

Here’s my promise to you: That way of thinking about leadership will backfire spectacularly. It may not backfire on you today. It may not backfire on you tomorrow. But it will backfire on you and your organization, hard, and when it does, you’ll wish you’d taken a different approach.

Effective leadership is always about your personal accountability to the people you lead.

THE HIGHEST FORM OF LEADERSHIP™

The highest form of leadership is accountability™. True leadership is never about you or what you get to do.

You can’t imagine, even for a moment, that you’re the center of this process. You’re not. Personal growth and development is great and we should always be striving to be our best, but that is not leadership. Leadership is always, every time and forevermore about the people you lead. Being a great leader means you are focused on the growth, success and wellbeing of the people you lead. Never lose focus on that.