Spotting the Real Leaders

Who are the real leaders in an organization?

Leaders aren’t born, they are made. Unfortunately, some leaders are made the wrong way. Throughout history, there are in fact, many successful and effective “leaders” who are not shining role models… Hitler, Kim Jong Un, Robert Mugabe, the list goes on. Indeed, they are all intelligent, successful, manipulative, and  excellent orators. Because of this, these few traits should be carefully watched for in your own organization to differentiate the dictators from the real leaders.

Spotting the Fakes:

  •  Leaders think they need to lead because they’re better than everyone else. A bad leader who believes that they have some “divine” right, “bloodline” or “superiority” has historically not been beneficial to society as a whole. Narcissism and hubris are familiar traits that are often seen with these sort of leaders.
  •  Leaders who shine in the spotlight and hide in the shadows. A bad leader will usually be the first to shine in the public but at any moment of uncertainty, they will divert all questions to anyone else or make a joke of the situation.
  •  Leaders who communicate only what they want people to hear. A bad leader will manipulate their announcements into phrases that are very ambiguous – often holding off much desired information. They’re the ones who believe government shouldn’t alarm the city when there’s an attack because they don’t want to stir panic among the citizens.
  •  Leaders who won’t sacrifice themselves. A bad leader won’t lay down anything for anyone. If you can play a game of “what-if”, bad leaders usually won’t sacrifice anything personal for gains in the organization.

A true leader would instead be humble, share the successes while carry the blames, set clear expectations, and would never abandon or give up on their people. Those leaders, such as Leonidas of the Spartans, Abraham Lincoln,  and Nelson Mandela are glorified forever for their willingness to sacrifice their safety and well-being for the betterment of their people.  A leader can herd sheep — but a real leader will not abandon their sheep to a pack of wolves. In fact, it is illegal for a ship captain to abandon ship. Captain Francesco Schettino, leader of the Costa Concordia, a ship that sank in 2012, is now facing criminal charges for leaving ship before his passengers. So ask yourself this, would your “captain” try to save you or leave for the first lifeboat?

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Timothy Lee

Timothy Lee is a rising senior at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. He is studying Political Economy while receiving a certificate of sales from Foster the School of Business. In addition, Timothy has held internships with Kimberly-Clark and Coca-Cola and is the Vice President of Marketing in the Sales Club. In his spare time, he enjoys discovering new restaurants, watching baseball, and mentoring like-minded people.