I wrote about what to do when those you look up to let you down a while ago. One of the most obvious things in that post hides in plain sight. In the title of the post. Do you see it? The thing I’m talking about is the fact that leaders or heroes can let you down. That you, as a leader are fallible and have the capacity to fail. That you can let people down. I’m wondering if we now need for a healthy dose of cynicism in leadership.
By leadership, here, I refer to both the institution (whatever that is) and leaders in general. I’m a fan of leadership. I’m striving to be a good student of leadership and leader. I’ve been thinking about leaders–past, and present. Every now and then I revisit examples of leaders we celebrate. Why do we celebrate Nelson Mandelas and then debate Winnie Madikizela-Mandelas?
I look at leaders on different platforms, acting in their spheres of influence. We’d like to assume they act in the best interest of those they serve. And, they should be acting in the best interests of those they serve.
When a ‘leader’ acts out of his selfish ambition he ceases being a leader. This, of course, is about motive. Unless exposed in some obvious way, motives can elude us. I mean other people’s motives, as well as our own. Motives are difficult to decipher.
Here is the home of cynicism. When we can’t tell leaders’ motives. It is when, for whatever reason, sincerity is lacking.
The news is awash with questionable acts by suspect leaders. It almost seems as if prominence’s shadows are scandal and moral bankruptcy. One of the reasons for this is that the world now choses to follow persons and not values.
Of course, there cannot be leaders without followers. In one way or another, leadership is about influencing others. And, being led means there’s an act of will on our part. A giving of permission; we allow others to lead us.
My lament is about how the world seems caught up in a frenzy of following people at the expense of character. We must remember that leaders are also fallible. When we follow without keeping this in mind we end up defending the despicable.
The same applies to ourselves as leaders. When we don’t make room for our own fallibility we double down on the ugly. Instead of submitting to humility and admitting we are wrong we dig a deeper hole. Arrogance soon has us walking off a cliff to prove how right we are.
Is the world slipping into an unhealthy follower-sheep?
Belief in leaders and ourselves as infallible is dangerous. It’s time for a healthy dose of cynicism of leadership. We must second-guess our own motives as leaders. It’s time for us to think a little more about why we agree with some leaders the way we do.
On A Healthy Dose Of Cynicism Of Leadership
Leadership is open to being wrong, in motive and deed. Real leadership is also humility. It is accepting that as much as others can be wrong, so can we. Sometimes leaders are wrong, and, they mess up. Sometimes then take off in a direction they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, and by default, wherever they go, they take people with them.
Also published on Medium.