Forget the leadership quotes, start with personal accountability

Challenge Yourself & Then Lead

If you’re a member of any number of professional social media sites, i.e. LinkedIn & Twitter, then you have probably been inundated with leadership quotes and philosophies.  While I am not discounting the validity of content within some of these posts, the sheer volume of posts is concerning.   I would like to take a new angle on this exhausted topic to perhaps shine some fresh perspective on why we are seeing a plethora of leadership messaging.  Perhaps inadvertently by writing this article I may be adding to the rhetoric of the subject but I will take my chances…

 Accountability & Ownership

While many employees crave true leadership, and rightfully so, I would venture to say that many “leaders” are hindered by a staff that doesn’t take ownership of themselves and their professional responsibilities.   Many of the professionals whom post these “leadership” messages are not currently in a role that requires the responsibility to drive corporate change and direction while simultaneously having to deal with the issues and backlash of subordinate staff.  Mid-level managers for instance have a delicate balance of towing the corporate line and engaging/inspiring their staff to achieve greater levels of success.  Individual accountability challenges non-managing staff to be leaders of their own professional conduct and career.

While leadership is absolutely a better process than management, many managers would be forced with the decision to vet staff if they truly lead as opposed to also managing.   While most professionals profess they would prefer leadership over management, many employees do not regularly take professional accountability for themselves.   As a result, a leadership approach would necessitate vetting those who don’t take ownership of their position and careers.

A leader challenges their staff towards professional self-discovery and allows the autonomy for growing through mistakes and challenges.  However, to work under a leader requires more of everyone who reports to this individual.   A leader will drive greater results out of their staff than a manager.  This means that the staff itself, by necessity, must elevate their game individually and together as a unit.

I suppose this is why I am curious that so many professionals gravitate to these leadership posts when they themselves have tenured careers yet are not a current position of leadership over others.  A professional has to have accountability for themselves before they can assume a layer of accountability for others.   Some people have no desire to lead professionally which is absolutely fine.  However, in my opinion, posting leadership pointers when you choose not to lead is a bit like complaining about any President when you didn’t vote.

Posting leadership quotes to send a message to a poor leader is not overly effective.   A poor leader will not likely change due to a post on social media.  Lead your career and conduct and set an example for your management.  It is hard to argue superior production and conduct and that example should resonate more deeply than a post.

True leaders are seen in a leadership capacity by peers prior to receiving the title.  It is the leaders, that when promoted into a position of seniority, were the obvious choice… not just by executives but also by peers.

I have heard it said “leaders create future leaders”.  I would argue that leaders guide future leaders.  The accountability of leadership must first come from within.  It is more work upfront to prepare to lead, but ultimately more rewarding and efficient long-term.