The Silver Bullet of Leadership

By Edward D. Hess,
Distinguished Executive in Residence and
Adjunct Professor of Management, Goizueta Graduate School of Business

Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia

edward_hess@bus.emory.edu

Many of you over the past two years have written me to share your views and questions on leadership. I am most thankful. Since this is my last monthly column for Catalyst, I want to end 2004 with what really is the essence of leadership. The Silver Bullet.

Leadership is part science and part art. Leadership is subjective, emotional and yes, hard work. There are over 200 definitions of leadership and various models of leadership: traits or personality; situational or context; Level V; transformational; authentic; and servant leadership.

Leadership is the convergence of heart, soul, intellect, and action. Leadership is the result of what you believe, value, and do. Authentic leadership happens when there is harmony among what you value, what you think, and what you do. Those actions must be for good and moral objectives.

We know that size, looks, gender, nationality, pedigree, ethnicity, and charisma do not either qualify or disqualify one from being a leader.

Leadership skills (listening, writing, speaking, empathizing, and self-discipline can be learned). But what really matters is what is in your heart:

  • YOUR CHARACTER
  • YOUR VALUES
  • YOUR ATTITUDE

And how you express them, through your actions, count!

Learning to be a Good Leader is a life-long pursuit. You will get better as you:

1) Experience life;
2) Lead and learn;
3) Become emotionally more aware and secure;
4) Learn not to focus on “me”; and
5) Truly adopt a servant leadership approach.

What precludes you from being a good leader?

  • Laziness
  • Arrogance
  • Lack of self-discipline
  • The wrong focus, attitude, motivations, or value

Good leadership is a constant, ongoing battle – inside a leader – between:

Selfishness (“me”)
vs.
Altruism
Self-absorption
vs.
Emotional Maturity
Insensitivity
vs.
Sensitivity
Laziness
vs.
Disciplined work
Insecurity
vs.
Confidence
Arrogance
vs.
Humility
Charisma
vs.
Authenticity
My Way
vs.
Accepting Other Ways
Group Think
vs.
Intellectual Honesty and Debate

Unfortunately, most people want to be leaders because of what leadership brings to them:

  • More pay
  • More power
  • More prestige and status
  • More opportunity

Unfortunately, great leadership is not about what you get – it is about what you GIVE! Leadership is not about what you take – it is about what you give.

LEADERSHIP IS NOT ABOUT YOU!

LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT THEM!

LEADERSHIP IS NOT ABOUT WHAT IS IN IT FOR YOU!

LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT HOW YOU CAN HELP THEM!

You see – the Silver Bullet of Leadership is YOU!

And only you can approach leadership with the right mindset, right attitude, the right motivations, and yes, the right values. I submit that you can be a good manager while focused on yourself; but you cannot be a good leader.

Leaders serve! Good luck on your leadership journey. And thank you for reading my commentaries over the past two years.