How To Spot A Counterfeit Leader

The 3 signs you must look out for

Counterfeit goods are a flashy illusion of the real thing. They are cheap and affordable but hold no future. All they promise is a shadow of the reality. They hold no vision.

If you are like me, you may have found yourself in a dilemma. I am in a store running down my shopping list. Everything is going well until I turn into this isle. “Save 50%!” the banner screams at me.

It is on a DIY tool that I have always wanted to own. I pick the box, go through the specifications and they seem just right. Into my shopping trolley it goes. Not only have I saved 50% of its original cost, this model costs 25% of its high-end version. I am in business! Or so I think…

Fast forward. I am in the middle of my third project with my now favorite tool. Suddenly, I smell something burning. Then wisps of smoke. In a fizzle of sparks, my tool parks up. Dead. I feel like kicking myself: “If only I had waited a little longer for the real deal!”

Just then, I began to reflect on people have I followed in the past only to for them to disappoint me. At the beginning, they looked like promising leaders. They had the poise, the right words and what looked like success. But time exposed that their minds and character were like a soup dish: wide but shallow.

Yet, these counterfeit leaders had tell-tale signs that I should have noticed. Here are three key signs that will save you from a counterfeit leader.

1. Instant gratification

Our world is filled with immediacy. This fact hasn’t escaped counterfeit leaders around us. They have an insatiable urge to get whatever they want now. It is focusing on short-term greed rather than long-term reward. The demand is on me first!

Leadership turns counterfeit when we concentrate on fads. This is the fleeting or irrational idea that what is popular is singular.

When we value positions more than mindsets, we place ourselves on a pedestal and forget to serve.

2. Floundering character

If you find a pedestal anywhere, chances are there will be a counterfeit leader clambering for it. These are people who always seek attention and crave recognition. They manipulate and distort values and facts to attract followers. We don’t have to look very far to find them. They are all around us. In boardrooms, prime-time news and politics.

They are fully committed to a case rather than the cause! They love the trappings of power and will do anything to hang on to it. around them.

Like an early morning mist is the character of a counterfeit leader. It is fleeting and unreliable.

3. Fickle attitude

A counterfeit leader believes that nothing meaningful can happen without them. In short, they invest all power to themselves and attribute failure elsewhere. This is so removed from the truth. Real power is given, not taken. It is about inspiring others to own a vision bigger than themselves.

Consider this: “Employers can’t control the message. In social media, it far more difficult of companies to manipulate, to sway opinion via sound bites and slogans as they could using old-school marketing techniques.” ~ Ted Coiné & Mark Babbitt in A World Gone Social.

Gone are the times when leadership was control. Leadership is influence. It is when people give you the permission to lead them. People no longer need our permission to lead. They will do so out of choice.

“I prefer to surround myself with people who reveal their imperfection, rather than people who fake their perfection.” ~ Charles F. Glassman

photo credit: Pâté Racket via photopin (license)

Originally published at on April 27, 2016.