The True Meaning of Leadership

“Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers. We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and of tired of leaders who let us take liberties with them. What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away.”
– Admiral James B. Stockdale

Wow, there is so much meat to this quote that I’m almost intimidated to dig into it! I was blown away when I read it because it’s so powerful and direct, yet it’s spot on in regards to the true meaning of leadership. Let’s pull it apart and analyze as to whether we’re truly living this one out.

“Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers…”

Isn’t this refreshing to read? And not only that, but it’s relevant. Too often leaders, in their effort to climb the career ladder, do more posturing and pandering than creating goodwill.

  • How are you creating goodwill with those around you?
  • Honestly assess your motives. Are you more dedicated to serving your team or advancing your career? (Hint: If you serve others, your career advancement will be the result.)

“…We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and of tired of leaders who let us take liberties with them…”

People want to be led by those they’re proud to follow. We don’t want to be scared of you, but we also don’t really want you to let us run all over you. We want boundaries and guidelines, and we want leaders who hold us accountable because it keeps the standards high.

  • Are you known as a standard setter/keeper with your team?
  • Do you hold your teammates accountable to what they say they are going to do?

“…What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away.”

I’d like to second that! A leader who puts others first will never be out of a job or followers!

  • Do you “give away” your authority or do you clinch it tightly and treasure it as your power?
  • How do you “give away” your authority?

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