True Leadership

Recently, a national leadership publishing house conducted a promotional campaign with a sales letter that boldly proclaimed in its header, “It’s Not Enough to Have Everything You Need. How Can You Get Everything You Want?”  The letter begins, “If the list I found your name on is any indication, then you’re doing OK.” It continues, “But true LEADERS don’t settle for that – they go for what they want.”  The letter goes on and emphatically states that one can get a “stellar career… a powerful compensation package… and an envied lifestyle by obtaining the difference – Leadership skills.”

Certainly, there are many positives associated with being a strong leader who pursues his/her intended goals.   Yet, perhaps there is a better way.  It is this Consultant’s view that true leaders empathetically assess, analyze and consider what the organization or client needs.  They enjoy working together with others to determine the best course of action.  This service to the greater stakeholder and/or public interest is also transformative, because it aids in persuading others to follow the leader who pursues this goal.  The ability to cultivate willful followership is a hallmark of great leaders.

The late investor and humanitarian, Sir John Templeton professed, “It may be said that true leadership is not self-centered.  Quite frankly, it is very selfless.” 

Author and retired West Virginia University Professor Gerald Pops penned in his book, Ethical Leadership in Turbulent Times: Modeling the Public Career of George C. Marshall, “When he (Marshall) reached retirement, he spurned an offer of one million dollars to produce memoirs of WWII and the post-war years.  He had never earned an annual salary above fifteen thousand and his retirement, while not uncomfortable, was modest… However, as he often said, service to the nation is a privilege and should not be used as a source of personal enrichment.”

A six year study by leadership and global consultants, BlessingWhite revealed that there is a bit of a disconnect relating to what leaders are “good at” as compared to what correlates with effectiveness.  Leaders tend to have a strong business aptitude, while rating lower on empathy, trustworthiness and “external attunement” (demonstrated awareness of others’ positions and perceptions).  That said, empathy and trustworthiness are most correlated with leadership effectiveness, and external attunement is not far behind in order of importance.   Business aptitude is important and correlates with effectiveness, yet not as much as empathy and trustworthiness.

Perhaps, the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar got it mostly right when he said, “you can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”  It seems people like to follow those they trust and who care deeply about their needs and views.

by Richard Koerner, RA Koerner & Company (


Posted on May 28, 2013 .