If you go to the bookstores today, you’ll find a million books on leadership. Tons of leaders have written books for other leaders. Millions of tips and strategies. I’ve read them all. And by all, I mean some. Maybe none.
Just because I haven’t read the books doesn’t mean I haven’t heard the endless amount of quotes on Twitter and Facebook from the leaders. Some of it is good stuff. Some of it is catchy bull. Some of them are good leaders. And some of them are catchy bull givers.
It depends on what you define as a “leader”. I think we are all influencers in some way or another, but I’m not so convinced that everyone who spouts off leadership quotes are actually leaders. Maybe they are. I don’t know the ones with thousands of Twitter followers. But I do know that if the only thing you’re giving out is advice, then you’re not the leader you think you are.
It makes us feel cool to have people want to hear what we have to say, but whenever I’m around a leader who talks down to me, I kind of lose interest. It’s not that I think everything they say is incorrect, I just don’t necessarily care to hear it from them. I don’t want them to be someone who influences my life, no matter how correct their catchphrases are.
The best leaders in my life have been the ones that made me feel most equal to them. The leaders who care more about me becoming a better person than they do about me buying their book or whatever they’re selling. The ones who ask me questions. The ones who find ways to give me comfort from the stories of their lives. I’ll sit for hours and let someone like that pour their thoughts and experiences into my life.
A good leader doesn’t have to elevate himself above you. The best leaders are the ones who stand beside you. Exalting yourself is one if the quickest ways to distance yourself. Go lower not higher.
We live in a culture obsessed with status. The bigger the crowds, the better we feel about our influence. And I’m not against big crowds. I’m sure you’ll find me at a ton of conferences in the future, but my life has been changed way more from the leaders that sat on a church pew with me or took me to dinner than it ever has from someone I’ve watched on a big screen sitting 80 rows back.
Real leaders come down from the stage. Real leaders go low.