I have blogged before on leadership, and while there are few more critical topics to discuss – the absence of genuine leadership is a significant challenge in our era. There is little need to highlight the existing failures of leadership. Right now, there is more to learn than we think? Maybe we are all too arrogant, and there is another way – in this blog, I explore an emerging “new” model!
The cherry tree myth is the most well-known and longest enduring legend about George Washington. In the original story, when Washington was six years old, he received a hatchet as a gift and damaged his father’s cherry tree. When his father discovered what has been done, he became angry and confronted him. Young George bravely said, ‘I cannot tell a lie… I did cut it with my hatchet. Washington’s father embraced him and rejoiced that his son’s honesty was worth more than a thousand trees.
There was a time when we looked to leaders for “leadership.” It meant they set an example; they were models. We even admired them. George Washington was a model in another era. In my lifetime Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Michael Gorbachev, President Reagan, Mother Theresa, come to mind as legendary or iconic. In business, there is Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and many others. In Australia, it is more difficult – we do not celebrate leadership in the same way, and we have few leaders who transition from leader to “legend.” In politics Curtain, Chifley Menzies are standouts with Keating and Hawke and Howard more recently. Legendary? Maybe not!
In business, it is a challenge to name any? We do not celebrate in the same way!
Over my adult life, I have learned from watching other leaders, starting with my dad and mum. The basic principles I learned at home have now evolved, but the core is there. I have studied and read about many of the legends mentioned above, BUT I have now discovered it is all “bull shit” – there is a new “gold standard.”
In the last two years, a new model of leadership is emerging, which is “disrupting” everything.
The rationale is – if you appeal to a common denominator, whether it is greed or fear or marginalisation or a sense of loss – and behave in a way that delivers some certainty; you create an enemy, and you are the leader, even a messiah!
I was not alive when Hitler was elected, or Stalin assumed power, but the model sounds similar. This model seems to gravitate to Authoritarian dictator type positions or relationships.
There is very little new about the model. What is new is the flagrant acceptance of it as an acceptable way to behave. There is a view that this is the way to conduct business.
I have heard intelligent people say – look at the results achieved. They are accepting a number of principles as a standard. Let me enunciate them!
Some of the beliefs which underpin this new leadership model include:
- I am the centre of the Universe – it is all about me.
- I only speak the TRUTH – everything that those who disagree with me say is FAKE.
- I will trash any tradition/protocol to suit my family and me.
- I am the victim here – “they” are all picking on me, and they will pay
- I have no colleagues or peers. They serve me at my discretion – they are disposable.
- I expect and demand total agreement and sycophancy.
- I have no respect for the office I hold or the role to which I am elected.
- I am exclusively responsible for all successes – others are held to account for all errors, mistakes, and failures on my watch.
- I need to put people down and call people names – it makes me feel omnipotent.
- I am the law, and the law is me!
There are more, but ten seemed like a baseline?
What we are living through is a social experiment of enormous proportions? Will all the theories about leadership be diminished as a result of this experiment? Only time will tell!
Recently I have reflected on my leadership journey, and while I know there are gaps I could “drive a truck through,” there are some qualities that I have aspired to incorporate into my life as a leader.
- Service to others
- Accepting responsibility
- Moral Courage
As I now review them, I wonder?
More recently, I was reading Alan Weiss’s new book, Three Score and More.
He was writing about maturity – it struck a chord!
A healthy ego is essential, but a runaway ego is perhaps the most significant tell-tale sign of immaturity. A healthy ego is manifest by:
- Sharing credit and accepting the blame
- Showing tolerance and forgiveness (instead of harbouring grudges and taking umbrage)
- Understanding that others don’t have to lose for you to win
- Realising that there is no need to engage in one-upmanship
- Standing resolutely for principles but not for personal priorities.
When I ponder what is happening, I wonder about the young men and women in the world who are looking for leadership and learning. In the world in which we live, many think what is happening is acceptable because it is challenging the establishment, and there are significant achievements!
So, “the means justifies the end” in that world – maybe it does?
It is a long way to come from one of the classic life stories. It may be so much of what I have learned till now is bullshit – At the age of 70, I guess I have to be open to learning? It’s a new world out there! This new gold standard is a tough ask!