The Leadership Lie

CrewGreat leadership never results from the actions of a single individual. No one—but no one—succeeds alone, despite what some people might tell you. Things get done through the actions of many, and they all must have the ability to take control and realize a vision.

The reality is that for every political superstar, corporate wunderkind, academic rock star, or entrepreneurial genius, there are scores of people behind the scenes making that illusion of the lone warrior possible. There is someone at home taking care of the family, an administrator running the office, a personal advisor giving perspective and insight, a best friend providing moral support, and on and on.

We attribute the title of leadership to one or a few, but that is a product of the conquering hero mythology we hold dear and a helpful way for us wrap our minds around cause and effect where the variables are incalculable. The reality is that leadership is a gestalt. It is the synergy of many contributing according to their own unique abilities and skills. The success of that synergy depends on how well each individual acts as a self-leader—one who owns what she does, strives to always do better, and is motivated by the notion of progress for a greater good.

Do not strive to be a solitary leader. That construct is a lie. Put your effort instead toward discovering your greatest talents and developing valuable skills so that you can be a part of a larger effort in which you are a self-leader, in control of your circumstances and in charge of your actions—one of many contributors dedicated to making the world a better place.

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