We Blame the 1%, But Still Call Them Our Leaders
This is a guest post by Dave Ursillo, author of Lead Without Followers: How to Save Our World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership. Gen Y author Ursillo shares his personal journey into the meaning of leadership. Ursillo believes that we must choose to be a leader—in life and business—on the inside before we are seen as one on the outside. Therefore, we have to choose to lead without followers first.
Approval ratings have consistently hovered at historic lows for both American political parties for years. Thousands have organized in angered protests on a near monthly basis to express their distrust and impatience with the political and economic elite, spanning stark polarities of social groups like the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Tea Party. As his own approval ratings have fallen toward the abysmal ratings of former President George W. Bush—and with the 2012 Presidential Election now looming -- the inspired election of President Obama certainly feels like ancient history.
Clearly, the deep leadership problem that is wreaking havoc throughout our modern world is neither a Republican nor Democrat problem.
The real problem, as I contend in my new book Lead Without Followers: How to Save Our World by Radically Redefining the Meaning of Leadership, is that we have collectively, quietly, even subconsciously lost sight of what it really means to lead—the essential, fundamental, unshakeable human core of what leadership is, amongst and on behalf of others.
My book is a radical redefinition of leadership. By that, I mean to encourage you to rethink the very relation between a leader and followers. At first glance, we would all deduce that if you have no followers, you cannot lead, because you have no one to lead.
A quote that I often hear attributed to John C. Maxwell goes something to the effect of, "If you think you're a leader but no one is following you, you are just a guy going for a walk." This is the highly constrained, indisputable law of today's definition of leadership.
But what about what you do when you're on that walk? Do you come across others? Get presented with an opportunity to do good, do wrong, or resort to indifference? Become a hero or one of many bystanders who did nothing to help? Lend a hand? Offer a smile?
Nobody lives in a bubble. In our lives, we encounter countless dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of lives. Each seemingly routine and mundane interaction—even with a complete stranger you'll never see again—is an opportunity to positively, negatively, or neutrally impact his or her life, potentially forever.
To me, simply living in this world and among its peoples gives you the raw opportunity to become a bona fide leader. By simple choice, with some internal exploration, personal growth and everyday practice, you can become a highly influential leader that positively impacts the lives of others, every day—even without followers.
I argue in my book that "leadership" has become a far too limited term that is more accurately used to define the material wealth and career success of individuals among society—those who have succeeded in acquiring high salary, prestigious job title and social status, perceived popularity and power, and masses of followers. On a subconscious level, we socially acknowledge these qualifiers of material success as indicators of an individual's supposed ability to lead.
Of course, making the assumption is matter simple logic: to rise to such a level of success, one has proven his or her intelligence and abilities—important necessities for leadership on business and political levels.
However, today, and especially as popular protests lambast the supposed "1%" of corrupt politicos and evil big bankers, have we quietly grown into investing far too much attention into the things that individuals have acquired—wealth, status, power, followers, etc.—to shallowly qualify them as the best potential leaders for our world?
Leadership today has become a dirty word. "Politician" is even dirtier. And as public rage swirls at the simple, commonplace status quo amongst the national zeitgeist, what it means to be a leader is becoming further convoluted.
If we are truly dedicated to changing what we see as wrong with our world and feel it necessary to inspire a new generation of leaders to help turn things around, we owe it to ourselves to take a good, hard, long look at how we each define leadership in its typically constrictive terms.
Maybe, just maybe, if we place renewed focus and energy into defining leadership more upon what drives us to do good—passion and inspiration, love and selfless giving, vision and dedication, positivity and hope—than the socially-admired material outcomes, we'll more quickly arrive at the solution.
Not everyone can lead as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. There can only be one President of the United States. But everyone, in as little as being human, can take up the vital mantle of leadership in their every day lives based upon everything that they already have—even without followers.
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