Day 110 – Why I don’t like leadership books

Seminars, TED talks, YouTube videos or some other form of leadership input has always fascinated me. I understand that a textbook about biology can be useful or maybe even one with the most common psychological theories. But leadership is such an intangible something. How do you put that in a diagram or explain that in a 20-minute video? Today I went back to a book that I read a couple years ago by John Maxwell. He is a pretty well known leader who has written tons of books on the topic. Even though his input is very digestible and easy to apply in your own context, somewhere deep inside of me I am always a little bit critical. Is it really that easy?

5 levels of leadership. The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership. The 360 degree leader. All sounds fantastic. Also sounds very American to me, but that aside, all wonderful and inspiring titles you would think. Today I went back to an old video on those 5 levels of leadership and as I was thinking about them, I did find a lot of applicable ways of thinking that I can apply in my current life. I see those leaders when I work with them. I meet those leaders when I apply for a new job. Sometimes I get very excited as I recognize that someone has understood a certain level and sometimes I just think to myself that someone still has a long way to go in learning and growing as a leader.

But no matter how many videos I watch or books I read. I don’t learn leadership from written or spoken words by others. It’s about the attitude. It’s about the action. It’s about someone’s character. You feel it when you are around them. You see it happen by seeing the change that happens in companies, families, organisations, governments, the world. Leadership isn’t an ingredient to a great person. It’s takes a great person to be a good leader. It isn’t about your job title or the position you worked so hard for. It’s about who you are outside your office hours.

I stood on top of the Hunter Mountain fire tower this summer on a clear day in August. As I looked across the mountains in all shapes and shades of green, I saw a bunch of teenage boys downstairs eating their trail mix and dried beef things (I forgot the name, but they’re good!) Those boys are the next generation of leaders. Throughout the hike I saw them work as a team. I saw them struggle and overcome their pain and tiredness. I saw them be fascinated by nature’s simple miracles. I saw the new leaders of tomorrow being inspired today. Not by books and videos, but by doing.

I don’t like all that talk about leadership. Because just talking about leadership is utterly useless. It’s about being a leader and that is doing something, being on the move and working towards your goals and dreams. It’s about people. Not you. Other people. In this regard, I think John Maxwell is right. Go read one of this books or watch a video if you are curious.

But basically it comes down to this:

What ever you want others to do. You do it first.

Step 2: You do it with them watching you.

Step 3: You let them do it and you watch them.

Step 4: They do it.

Step 5: They do it and someone else is watching them.

The world is in desperate need of these type of leaders. The ones that don’t tell you what to do, but the ones that show you and take you along on their journey. The world needs leaders that are willing to step down when it’s someone else’s turn to be an example. The world needs leaders who don’t think it’s about them, but always about the other. The world needs you. Because you could be that leader.

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