Leadership Stories – Helpful or Harmful? A Great Marketing Skill
I am not certain whether leadership stories, articles or books or magazines inspire action or they don’t. I simply do not know everyone who reads them and how it affects them.
But in networking since 1993 and working with groups of up to 10,000 people I’ve seen virtually no evidence that non-leaders become leaders as a result of leadership stories or articles. Do these ‘Leadership Ideas’ in every form from books to CDs to essays to bios help some leaders learn to lead better? Sure. I am not saying they don’t have value. It just seems that most of what I read is about going from one level of leadership to another. Are those the people that really need help?
There seems to be a huge void.
Most people starting a business never get any traction because most of the directions the leadership gurus put out are about leadership “concepts” once you already have people following you.
What about Mark, the guy delivering seafood who starts a home based business or Mary, the stay at home Mom? If they don’t lead, no one will follow and if they don’t have anyone following them how can they lead?
What are they leading?
A paradox with a point: How can they lead if they are just getting started and getting started means leading?
Ideas from the likes of John Maxwell about ethical behavior and 5 different levels of leadership are tremendous ideas but do they really mean anything to Mary or Mark ~ who just got started? Leadership stories don’t really help, at least not yet. While it is mandatory to think and act a level ahead of where we currently are, [act as if], Mark or Mary need to know how to walk before they can run.
Our average peeps can imagine what kind of leader they would be but this only sets them up for disappointment and discouragement as a few weeks tick off and they still are stuck in neutral at the starting gate. My take is based on what I have seen from the Mark’s and the Mary’s who do become leaders in the conventional perception. In other words, they get people to join their business and achieve some level of success greater than what they had been doing. They have a ‘group’ and their business is growing, making money and gaining some momentum. Now they may be ready for these concepts and the gurus and their brilliant and original ideas, [wink, wink], but for the most part the nagging question for most people remains: How do I become a leader with no followers?
Stuff about how to inspire your team, motivate others, raise the bar etc., becomes a daily reminder to both Mark and Mary that they have nothing. The effect of pouring this stuff into their brain and not growing leads to pain and, most of the time, quitting. Why? We’ve educated ourselves about leading but have no followers and we feel like phonies or that we are just never going to be a leader like Tom, Dick or Harry. The pain of failure, self-doubt and sometimes even self loathing is so excruciating that we run for shelter. And who can blame us?
Big void, agreed?
The essence of what you’ve just read is really my story. I was delivering seafood off the back of a truck, raising 2 kids on my own and trying to get a home-based business started. And reading articles and listening to recordings about leadership….cuz you ‘gotta be a leader’ to succeed was a daily habit. Fortunately, I had taken a $25,000 cut in pay and was going to take another one in a few more months so I couldn’t quit. And I wanted to. I had failed 5 times in the 1980’s at home-based stuff ~ 4 of the 5 companies I tried with were great , couldn’t blame them ~ and I was failing the same way. My thoughts and feelings were pretty common, ‘Me? A leader?’…’who are you kidding?’ …..certainly not the kind of mindset that would grow anything or inspire anyone.
Then something amazing happened. I read the cover of a book I had carried since 1971, “Think and Grow Rich.” Don’t worry, this is not dissertation on this great work. I remembered hearing a guy say one time, “if you don’t have the time to read the book, at least read the cover’ ….he hesitated..then shouted “THINK!”
I thought about two ideas, quotes actually, that a sort of friend …sort of mentor ….. had discussed several times over the years. he had told me when you figure out how these thoughts are the same things will change dramatically.
“Nothing can permanently deny it’s on true nature” ~ Emerson
“We must become the change that we seek” ~ Gandhi
Seem conflicting, don’t they? In fact they say exactly the same thing. Our true nature is elegant. After all, we were all made first class by first class and we can go first class if we do one thing. More on this in a minute. Therefore, instead of changing into something else ~ which is how I always interpreted Ghandi’s statement ~ we simply have to become what is already within us…..which…ta-da….is our own true nature. Understanding this give the wanna-be- leaders a true starting point to lead from.
Why? It allows us to break away from the perception of what a leader is in the eyes of others. And become a leader instantly.
How? The only type of authentic leadership necessary to inspire others to follow and eventually lead is demonstrate an ability we all already have. It is within us, we were ALL born with the ability to control our thoughts and all the Marks, Mikes, Moe, Larry or Curley’s of the world really need to do is lead themselves to their own true nature. The Sufi’s teach that one need only master the gifts within to change the world around them. It is true: we have everything we need and know everything we need to know to make immense change. It is merely letting go of the junk and this can be done effortlessly.
Well, this is the really cool part of the Mark’s or Mary’s or Moe, Larry and Curly’s becoming instant leaders. Part of our nature is to be in service to others ~ just by using the gift of service. If we can lead ourselves to change we can lead anybody. Breaking old habits, like quitting, giving up, getting discouraged or yielding to despair is not easy if we measure ourselves against the perceived standards of leadership but is very easy if we simply shift the definition and follow both Emerson’s and Gandhi’s salient points. Coming to an understanding within ourselves that we do not need to change into something to win but merely return to the miracle we already are and build on that is really easy once you take the leap away from public perception.
Leading ourselves back to our true nature [how much would you take for your eyes? 4 million? your hands? 2 million? feet? legs?] is the starting point. Add up just those body parts then add the value of your mind and write that number down. It is in the millions. Yes? Leading ourselves to a real understanding of our value is ‘Ready=Set’ …… now for the ‘Go’ part.
Even easier. Simply help others understand their value the same way, find out what they really want and get into service. Help them get what they want and the blessings laid on you will be greater than we could imagine.
Leadership begins with us being able to lead ourselves not leadership stoires, to lead ourself back to our true nature. Realizing Gandhi and Emerson were saying the same thing, on one sublime moment, led me to an understanding of authentic leadership….the kind of leadership that really inspires others. Helping others it’s not about into changing into something else but reclaiming their own elegant nature by letting go is simply a matter of trust.
Trusting we already possess everything we need and know what we need to know right now to get to the next level of achievement requires, surprisingly, far less effort and has a far greater effect than manufactured ideas of what leadership is we adopt. The principle is simple, the challenge to executing it is far more difficult in today’s world ~ which is the point of this long post.
I catch a break. For me, this all happened in 1994. It was a time when the onslaught of home-based business ‘gurus’ and ‘magic systems’ was in the embryonic stages. When we couple the proliferation of so called experts in the home-based-biz world with the microwave mind set we can all have from time to time, the internet has become a playground for anyone who wants step up and be a pied-piper. Leveraging the inexperience and/or of others for profit has been going on since the beginning of time. And maybe, if there was as much around in 1994 as their is now, who knows? I might have bought into some of these ‘magic bullets.’
Rely on this: While fashion comes and goes, only principles endure and while we need change to make progress, not all change is progress. Add a little common sense. Within this context does it make any sense what-so-ever that someone who is successful would share these amazing systems to make you an overnight success? Duh? Look, if you found some magic formula [wink-wink], would you share it with everyone in the world and force your organization to compete with other organizations within your company AND every other organization on the planet? Give me a break.
Look within and you will quickly locate the only leader you will ever need. Someone who’s instincts are greater than any beast in the forest and intuitively knows what to do. And it sure as hell ain’t to buy leads and systems…..within each of us is a clear understanding that we need to lead ourselves to change first. Once we do, we will instantly be able to discern what is important, authentic and helpful to others.