We’ve talked all about Five Leaders I Want to Follow. So let’s recap. I love spending time mentoring and getting to know young leaders. They inspire me, excite me, and keep me from getting too old. They aren’t perfect and yet are generally very receptive to advice and new ideas. I feel better about myself and the future when I am spending time with young leaders. I’m a realist, I understand I cannot mentor everybody, so I am very selective about who I personally invest in. But sometimes I worry about these folks. I worry that they automatically look up to people who are “Important” and/or sell a lot of merchandise. I worry that they are attracted to famous and successful people and may strive only to be just that: Famous and successful. And frankly, that’s a really shallow path of existence. So, as an act of public service, I give you: Five Leaders You Should NOT Follow.
1. A leader without passion. A leader can be passionate for all the wrong things. But a leader without passion is… well, a horrible leader. You see, in my experience, a leader without passion is unable to inspire others… so they tend to coerce. They bully, pout, use guilt trips, and “make” people do whatever they believe will elevate themselves. Leaders without any real passion tend to jump from trend to trend because they have no emotion attached to what they are doing at any given time. Leaders without passion for their work also tend to be without passion for other individuals. They really don’t connect well with other people, and tend to resent passionate leaders like the young leaders I treasure being around. Do not follow a leader without passion.
2. A leader that doesn’t listen. Leaders that don’t listen are too arrogant to learn from anyone. They tend to grow full of themselves and leave no room for anyone else. They may at times become students of people that have things they want, like fame, money, power, and things like that, but they sure don’t care about your life experiences. Or your ideas. Or your life. Or your family. If you’ve ever had a “conversation” with someone like this, you know exactly what I mean. You can try all you want to connect with them, but the only thing they’ll really take away from the conversation is how great they were to talk to you. If you seek their counsel, you’ll probably end up discouraged because they won’t seem to care about what you’re saying, and they’ll probably lecture you all the way down to your lowest level of self esteem. You don’t want advice from these types of leaders, and you don’t want to become like them. They can’t learn, and they exist in a place far out of touch of the world around them. Do not follow a leader that doesn’t listen.
3. A leader that doesn’t love people. A leader that doesn’t love people tends to be in the game more for the personal accolades and prestige rather than investing in others and elevating the people around them. They tend to avoid conversations with others as much as possible, unless they want something from you. They tend to use people, step on people, and hurt people fairly consistently. In my experience, a leader that doesn’t love people isn’t much of a leader at all, but rather a bully, pushing people around to get what they want and not really concerned with the collateral damage. A leader that doesn’t love people will tend to see you as a means to an end, and will fire you into the air like a roman candle until your last shot is used up, and then will toss you aside while they light the next one. Don’t follow a leader that doesn’t love people. You’ll get used up and thrown away.
4. A leader without humility. A leader without humility generally doesn’t love other people, doesn’t listen to them, and doesn’t really care about others at all. They put others down, and frankly, they’re often arrogant jerks. People without humility generally have huge character flaws. When these people are in positions of leadership, they erode away at the morale and creative strengths of an organization. Shallow, prideful people generally destroy everything around them. Don’t follow a leader without humility.
5. A leader without a vision. It isn’t easy to follow someone that doesn’t have any idea where they’re going. Think about it: without a sense of vision and direction, an organization tends to just kind of exist and tread water. Without a vision there isn’t anything to inspire others. Employees begin to follow their own personal set of values, and become motivated by a paycheck due to the absence of any other inspiring goals. A leader without a vision can’t lead an organization forward, and will soon begin finding people to blame because of their inability to inspire. Those people you see walking by are the droves already trying to get away from this lack of vision. Don’t follow a leader without a vision.
Bonus: Respect those in authority over you, even if you believe they are horrible leaders and terrible people. Recently a high ranking former Goldman-Sachs employee named Greg Smith left the company and fired the ultimate shot at his company’s leadership, naming names and pointing fingers in a New York Times editorial. It may feel great to lash out at those you feel mistreated you or looked down on you. But what do you really gain? Being a leader is tough, and the last thing a leader needs is to be torn apart by others for every move they make. Firing off a bunch of angry comments doesn’t seem to reflect a love for other people, a sense of humility, and a teachable spirit. In fact, lashing out publicly (or with quiet venom) for perceived slights seems to indicate a lack of self-control, maturity, and… leadership. If you find yourself under the thumb of a leader you cannot work with, then improve yourself. Do what it takes to invest in your own future, whether it is the route of education, networking, or simply finding a new job. Throw everything you’ve got at what you are passionate about. Be teachable and approachable to others. Invest in other people, and develop a strong spirit of humility. Channel that passion into a vision that inspires other people. That is the type of leadership that is worth following.