“Authority is just a title; Leadership will evolve a culture”
“Adapt, Evolve, Protect — Exhausting every resource to ensure the protection, dignity, and trust, of our clients.” It’s funny that I start the self-inducing punishment into my “soft skills” repertoire with the headline on my LinkedIn profile, but it really does project a great deal about who I am as a father, a husband, and professional. I know what I’m phenomenal at, and I’m aware of what I suck at; at least what I’m willing to come to grips with anyway.
Such a simple phrase, but one that weighs so heavy in meaning, and value, if applied correctly during the epiphany I’m getting from my mirror.
I’ve always known what leaders are, what they sound like, what they project, how they can make us feel so inspired; but the actual definition is never concrete. It’s never concrete because the word “leadership” is one of the most over-evaluated, left to interpretation, behavioral traits that has ever existed.
Its exact definition is ever evolving, not because Webster’s Dictionary can’t make up their minds on how to explain it, but because of its infinite versatility. Similar to a few “choice” four letter words that have become such an intricate part of our lives, the word leadership, has many correlated derivatives, and can be used in so many forms to our benefit, or detriment, in a multitude of situations.
Much to the disappointment of non-native English speakers, this language proves time and time again how contradictory its purported rules can be when trying to communicate with other people. One slip of an accent, over emphasis on a certain part of a phrase, or using a word in plain conversation in one country, can have severe impacts on relationships if not used correctly in another.
Ikea’s bunk-bed was named “Gutvik” after a small town in Sweden — but that’s hardly what it refers to in German; the “Got Milk” campaign in Latin America didn’t go over too well, and when Umbro released their new soccer shoe, the “Zyklon”, it certainly was not intended to reference what most people thought of first in Government and Hebrew communities.
Remaining mindful of your surroundings, not just from a physically protective standpoint, but also from an image, reputation, social standpoint, will serve you very well in the future. Communication is the linchpin to Leadership. If you’re unknowingly, or unintentionally, tossing out insults or degrading content to potential business partners, or future employees, you may be losing the credibility required to become a great leader, without any clue as to why, or that it’s even happening in the first place.
This is why strong communication and due diligence is so crucial when you’re absorbing uncharted diversity and expanding into new cultures. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a Kumbaya, hug the world, give peace a chance kind of guy, but I still know that relationships are what perpetuate good business, and strengthen the trusted bonds that we have nurtured in our lives.
Leaders are defined differently by everyone. Of course you will have your “staple” leaders, with the obvious “no-brainers” that seem to be on regular rotation like, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Joan of Arc, or Colin Powell; but as we all know, leadership, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For instance, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, all thought Hitler was a great leader. Have you seen the sparkle that Putin gets in his eye when he dreams of Stalin? What about the reaction you get when Genghis Khan’s name is mentioned in Mongolia?
Now; although they were some of the most vile and savage human beings to ever steal oxygen from this earth, every one of the individuals I’ve just mentioned, were all leaders. It takes all kinds, the good, the bad, and the insanely hideous, but like them or not, they were all motivators, they certainly were inspiring to some twisted degree, and they all lead their followers believing every word of what venom they were spewing.
The only reason I bring this unsettling reference up is that the term leadership is a trait that needs to be used with full disclosure, absolute explanation of its context and its intent, with the utmost of care. It’s a term that holds a vast expanse of interpretation, the potential to be overused, and maintains the dual correlation of either immense power, or great disappointment.
Now granted, no one is going to mistake me for Abraham Lincoln any time soon, but rest assured, there won’t be a savage, bloodthirsty horde, hell-bent on world domination, burning down your city on my behalf either. My “style” is much different, and frankly, a lot more complex.
By improving the leadership and efficiency within an organization, it directly enhances the well-being and morale of the teams involved. It makes it easier for people to work harder and fully commit to a cause within the organization because it’s not just a paycheck to them. They believe it at their core. They believe it to the point that it becomes ingrained in their emotional and mental state, every obstacle they challenge themselves with in their life, work or play, consistent across the board.
As a result, you’ll build up an envious amount of clout with your associates, your stakeholders, and your industry. True value and credibility where you can do no wrong. Your team will defend every decision you make to the point that if your mouth inadvertently writes a check you shouldn’t cash, the ones around you willingly jump in front of the bus and sacrifice themselves to preserve your mission, and what your culture believes. Not that you would ever intentionally tap into this “credit”, but it’s there if you ever get into a pickle.
When you have a team, and staff that truly wants to be there for the right reasons, it breeds positivity and happiness within the organization; reinvigorating the culture as a whole. It creates a cohesive environment built on absolute trust and unquestionable integrity, regardless of the environment. This level of leadership is a priority, and catalyst to mission success that will always lead to a positive, morale boosting environment. Structured boundaries are established here, and yet standards are still exceeded. Personal differences are set aside to allow the best interests of the collective take shape and evolve as a whole, executed with fluidity and a dedicated, work-together mentality. In this environment, everyone believes the same thing, and everyone fights together as one, on the same mission. Whether it’s on the battlefield, or in the boardroom, the venue is irrelevant, true leadership transcends any environment.
No matter where you are on the “food chain”, not a single person reading this got there by themselves. Not a single one. It was always a team effort, on some level, that provided the opportunities, or created the potential for you to succeed. Keeping a strong grip on reality and beating your ego back down once in a while, is a practice that would not just benefit your team, but inspire others around you to do the same; elevating everyone’s game to a higher level.
Leadership itself depends on a few factors though.
- Contingent upon your audience
- Context of the conversation
- Level of maturity and moral compass of those involved
- What values the interested parties deem higher than others
- How they gauge behavioral tendencies
- The scale that determines the weight of those values
- Intentions, Motives, beliefs, and Mission
- Length of time of Relationships
- Level of intimacy and intricacy of knowledge in the Business
The goal here is to evolve and become an honest, accountable, and inspiring leader that exemplifies the level of values and moral standards that Lincoln would be proud of; and one that you would brag about to your Grandma. You would never lie to your grandma, right? If you’re full of shit, she’s going to know it, and call you out on it anyway, so don’t lie to yourself, then turn around and try to sell her on it. She’s not buying; and neither are your people.
Leaders are always seeking knowledge and trying to learn something new every day as well. While it’s great that you know everything; knowing everything, and reminding people that you know everything, are two totally different things. You command more respect when the ones around you look to you as the all-knowing silent oracle, rather than running around trying to convince everyone that you are.
Strong leadership requires impeccable vision, but to also be able to see what everyone else sees; this would be the reflective-perspective part. Maintaining perspective can be extremely effective when it’s complemented with humility. Unfortunately, though, that last one seems to be in short supply as of late. However, In the event that you are able to recognize your own “douchebaggery display of awesomeness”, and you ever find yourself to be the smartest one in the room, make up an excuse, and find a new room.
Make sure you always learn something from failure, and don’t let anyone try to convince you that there isn’t a lesson in there somewhere. Just try not to repeat it too much. You have to establish a strong foundation before you build the empire, or its collapse is inevitable. I’ve always been a firm believer of the notion that if you can remain unbiased and honest while evaluating your past, the good and the bad, you can provide a clear blueprint of who you really are, and what deficiencies need corrected before they become irreparable moving forward. This allows you to cultivate better relationships. Not only does it show that you’re fallible, but that you are rational and of sound judgement. No one is always that tough, no one is always that smart, and no one is always that good looking. Well; except for Katy Perry, she’s perpetually flawless.
We all have miniature moments of doubt and weakness, regardless of what you may see in public; or hear out of their mouth. Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, everyone has one of those moments that cause them to question what they are doing. What makes good leaders though will always boil down to how you deal with those moments that shape you as an influencer. It’s not that they’re always fake, but maybe they aren’t provided the clarity to truly succeed.
Just because you don’t “outrank” them, doesn’t mean you can’t help them out and politely suggest how their behavior is being perceived by others. Don’t be scared to do the right thing, just make sure you do it the right way. “Humble” is always on the menu, but if you run out; tell them to give me a call. Any corrective action, warranted or not, is to be discussed behind closed doors later down the road. In public however, the image is of support, unity, and brotherhood. Here is where everyone acts as an equity holder of the team, leaders on every level. If you believe the misconception that leadership is just the person in charge, then keep reading; I think I can hash this out for you.
By that definition, you are identifying “authority” not leadership. The arm of influence that holds the right and the power to delegate and dictate. “Higher on the food chain” and adjudicated control does not mean leader, it means supervisor, the assumer of liability. These are often interchanged ideas, however, they are mutually exclusive terms at their core, frequently misrepresenting each other. They are not congruent, nor are they contingent upon each other.
It isn’t until special circumstances develop that a leader can become an acting figure of authority, like earning rank, and assuming more responsibility in a more formal, legal capacity, within an organization. Such is the case when a strong leader has emerged with the respect and confidence of those around them, consistently achieving above and beyond to benefit the interests and motives of the team, without any regard for their own.
Resistant to the persuasion from those outside of the circle that maliciously intend on fracturing that foundation for their own self-indulgent agendas, leaders will intuitively eliminate the possibility of any external negativity that could potentially contaminate their culture. Basically, the textbook definition of addition by subtraction. It is in this instance that they can become authoritative by position and title, assuming more responsibilities within the organization.
Authority is just a title on a piece of paper, while leadership is a movement that is felt at your core as a human. A movement organically built by people acting in the absolute best interest of each other, and not for themselves. There are no knives being thrown around, or random buses barreling down the road to be thrown under. This is an impenetrable team, undeterred by outside influences that pathetically attempt to compromise the integrity of their relationships, and the fortified mentality of their family. They sacrifice for each other, because they stand for each other.
Christopher W. Martin
Loriakin Seven Protection