“Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader…They set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role – always about the goal.”
That that may sound funny because if your goal is to get the role then it’s about both the role and the goal.
There are times that a leader gets to a position who never set out to be there. It is then that they can concentrate on the goal.
I was District Governor and a member of the National Board of Directors for the Kinsmen and Kinette clubs of Canada. However, I did not set out to be the leader. I came on to the District Board in a low level position to work with a friend who wanted to help the District and to raise the level of leadership. But my friend changed jobs and moved out of the Province so the National Board appointed me. That gave me a real opportunity to work towards our goal.
Jim Collins author of the book ‘Good To Great Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t’ did a study of good businesses that became great businesses.
They wanted to make sure that the concepts they developed came directly from the data itself. They did not start with a theory and try to prove it. They built it all from the evidence.
Collins kept insisting that the team ignore the CEO/leaders but his team kept pushing back. “No! There is something consistently unusual about them. We can’t ignore them.”
Collins would respond that the other companies also had good leaders.
Finally—as should always be the case—the data won.
Jim found that,
“The good—to-great executives were all cut from the same cloth. It didn’t matter whether the company was consumer or industrial, in crisis or steady state, offered services or products. It didn’t matter when the transition took place or how big the company. All the good—to-great companies had Level 5 leadership at the time of transition. Furthermore, the absence of Level 5 leadership showed up as a consistent pattern in the comparison companies. Given that Level 5 leadership cuts against the grain of conventional wisdom, especially the belief that we need larger-than-life saviours with big personalities to transform companies, it is important to note that Level 5 is an empirical finding, not an ideological one.”
Jim goes on to describe Level 5 leaders.
“Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.”
Level 5 leaders have ambition to be sure, but it is ambition for the goal and not the role.
The greatest leaders are not the big name celebrities, but rather leaders who are often shy, giving credit to the team. They do not allow it to become about them. They are a “paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”
They are not the Hillarys and the Trumps of this world. Most of these great leaders didn’t want the spotlight on them at all. It was more about the company than about them. Can we say that about our leaders today. Think about who we have running for election in the United States. In both cases, it is about them. And before we get too smug up here in Canada, think about the selfie king we put in charge.
All past evidence has shown that none of these people will be remembered as great leaders. And the most telling sign is their desire to BE leader and to have the power.