I believe that leadership is a privilege, not a right. It is a privilege granted to those who influence others with integrity of heart and skillfulness. There is a great difference between people who just get stuff done (a potential yet basic definition of a leader or manager) and people who establish a meaningful impact on the world around them. We see multiple examples of organizations that were led by people who “just got the job done” and experienced immense success before their compromising philosophies caught up with them (e.g. Enron, EpiPen, Penn State Football). However, as I believe most of us would argue, these organizations were led by corrupt leaders who possess a self-serving worldview.
Leadership skills are not enough
Peter Northouse described people’s potential for leadership with the following statement, “many people have the potential for leadership. If people are capable of learning from their experience, they can acquire leadership.” While this may be a good summation of general leadership, I believe great leaders are different. I think all leaders have to possess certain skills in order to experience success or impact others. However, leadership skills are not enough. History is littered with examples of leaders who possess great skills but lacked the most critical differentiator between leaders: those who are serving versus those who are self-serving. I believe the difference is character.
Leadership character paired with leadership skills — that is what differentiates great leaders from everyone else. It’s what produces servant leaders.
“When push comes to shove, under pressure, if it’s not who you are, it’s hard for you to do even what you think is right because your ego is going to get in the way – your false pride and your self-doubt. But if it’s who you are, then that’s who you’re going to be on a day-to-day basis” (Larry Spears). This statement embodies why I believe servant leadership is the highest form of leadership. It requires a profound authenticity and character that is not required in other forms of leadership. Leadership is about others, not me. The moment I make leadership about myself, I become a self-serving leader. When leadership is about others, I am able to “create healthy organizations that nurture individual growth, strengthen organizational performance, and, in the end, produce a positive impact on society” (Peter Northouse).