What is True Leadership? (hint: it is NOT management)

April 26, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

~John C. Maxwell

Leadership is influence.

Leadership comes from our heart and our head. It’s our attitude, and attitude is everything.

Leadership is also the ability to focus a team’s attention and the ability to inspire a team towards a grander vision – a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.

In 1961, JFK visited the NASA Space Center. The United States was in the space race with Russia, a crucial period in geopolitical history. The Russians were ahead of us, and we felt threatened as a culture and a society. Kennedy wanted us to be the first to put a man on the moon. He offered a challenge and a penultimate goal to the dedicated people in the field:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon returning him safely to the earth.”

– John F. Kennedy

Notwithstanding the risk to his own reputation, which was at stake on the world stage, his vision shook NASA to its foundations. In part because, the spacecraft they would use had only a tiny fraction of the computing power of the smarphone that is in your pocket right now.

But at the same time accountability, engagement, motivation, and morale within NASA soared. Most leaders find this surprising. We tend to think that morale is impacted negatively when accountability and pressure are at their highest. The reality is the opposite: providing teams with an inspirational stretch goal, narrowing their focus and harnessing their attention increases both accountability and the engagement of the team.  This is what James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 blockbuster book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies meant by Big Audacious Hairy Goal (BHAG).

As evidence, consider that during his tour of the NASA space center Kennedy stopped to speak with a janitor. He asked, “What do you do?” The janitor responded, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.”

How are you influencing others?

If that influence is coming from your heart and your head, it will have a positive impact on others. That is true leadership!

Good luck.

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©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

*Photograph of President Obama and White House custodian Lawrence Libscomb by White House photographer Pete Souza

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