Many of us have @ one time or the other, come across inspirational leaders, in the form of a supervisor, team lead, or self-appointed leader. They motivate you to follow certain paths or go do things that seem counter-intuitive; their approach goes against everything you believe in or know is right; and yet, you follow their directive (or direction, depending on whether it is a supervisor or not). It is easy to come under their spell- they are strong, have conviction, and seem to have it all figured out. Beware….. and wake up and smell the coffee.
Validate their directive against actual facts and data, especially if the individual has little to no experience in the space. Lack of experience or knowledge does not stop these ‘leaders’ from trying to force their convictions on others- because, by their very nature, they are forceful and are often, sorry to say, so full of themselves, not in touch with reality. For them, their ‘leadership’ quality justifies everything.
Don’t get me wrong – there are examples of great motivational leaders- like Gandhi, MLK, JFK, Steve Jobs; these leaders had substance and in most cases based their convictions on certain facts and data. Steve Jobs did not try and give guidance on how the economy should be run; he focused in his area of expertise. He pushed his people to their max and helped them achieve their potential (though his means may be questioned by many!).
Inspirational leaders without substance and the right background can be downright dangerous for those they are leading and for the cause itself; they take diametrically opposite positions often just to prove their leadership – the only purpose for these positions is to show their leadership and provide them an opportunity to shine- it is all about them.
Such leaders are however fickle; when things start going wrong, they will be first ones to bail on you, leaving you standing lone with ‘your cause’ and ‘your position’. They have already found something else that looks more attractive and will give them a chance to get on the pedestal.
A good leader is not about himself or herself; they are focused on the success of the cause and do not want any attention to themselves. They base their guidance on recommendations on facts and good data; they ensure the team and the cause comes first and when things start going wrong, are the first to step up and take blame. They are people oriented and focus on the betterment of their team.
What has your experience been?