I Don’t Want to be a Leader, …

Shadow of Leader

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. —General Douglas MacArthur

My mentor, Thomas D. Willhite, told a story in one of our leadership training workshops in the mid-1970’s about a certain individual, who later became immensely wealthy and a respected business leader.  At the time of the story, this man was young and eager and attending a seminar on leadership and the principles of success held at a big hotel.  About half way through the first day of this week-long event, the lecturer, who was getting fired up with his own rhetoric and regaling the participants with stories of great leadership and great deeds throughout history, stopped and surveyed the packed room.  Eager eyes stared back, for the participants had paid their own money to attend and gain the pearls of wisdom on leadership and success.

He then spoke loudly. “If you want to be a leader, stand up!”  At which point, everyone in the large ballroom jumped up onto their feet, grinning with enthusiasm. Except one person who happened to be sitting in the center of the first row.

The lecturer walked off the stage and approached this seated individual. “And what’s wrong with you, young man? Don’t you want to be a leader?”

The reply came back quickly. “No, I want to be a leader of leaders”. At which point he stood up on his chair, head and shoulders above everyone else.

The purpose of leadership is to create more leaders, not more followers!  ~Ralph Nader

Many individuals carry the title or position of leader. It may be leader of the House of Representatives or leader of the Senate. It may be leader of a country, or leader of the city council, or leader of the church choir, or leader of the school board, or leader of the teacher’s union, or leader of a global company. The title and position carry with it access to power and influence that other’s aren’t given. And in many cases it comes with larger compensation and access to information and individuals otherwise restricted to those in lesser positions.rights andBut even more than rights and benefits, the role of leader comes with a long list of responsibilities, and it is often in the carrying out of those responsibilities that we begin to see the real character of the individual.

Character is the most important aspect of leadership. Character either energises or alienates.

Leadership is not a title or position. Leadership is about action, about behaving and talking in ways that energize and elevate others to go beyond what they thought was possible, in order to benefit mankind and society. The leader who only acts for his or her own self-interest (read most current American politicians) ranks lowest on the gradient of leadership. Those who think first and foremost about the interest of society at large are those who will become a leader of leaders.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.  ~John Quincy Adams

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

e: john@johnrchildress.com
Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
This entry was posted in Human Psychology, John R Childress, leadership, Life Skills, Self-improvement and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to I Don’t Want to be a Leader, …

  1. Frank tempesta says:


    This is a thoughtful piece….one to which I wholeheartedly concur.




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