Leadership Means Condescending to Stupid People Without Being Obvious About It

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Lots of talk in the blogosphere about leadership development. Wally Bock. Dan McCarthy. HBR. The New York Times.

Sometimes being a leader is about inspiring others to achieve great goals. Sometimes being a leader is about being a hero. Most often, it’s about condescending to stupid people without making them feel stupid.

Hey, Laurie. I have this really great idea. I’m going to try to do something totally outrageous. No, I’m not going to write a business plan. Nope, no research needed. Imma go with my gut.

Oh man, guts are often wrong. Sometimes being a leader means seeing the forest for the trees and knowing how things will work out before they’re even suggested — and not saying a goddamn thing. Or maybe offering a point or two of helpful ideas.

But being a leader also means knowing that this guy, with his really good idea, has hit the zenith of his abilities. You could suggest a revised approach to his idea that will make him more successful but he probably won’t listen to you.

That’s why you are the boss and he’s not. Do not be smug. Leaders are not smug.

Being a leader also means taking a lot of shit from people without blinking.

This business sucks. Morale is low. You don’t pay me enough.

Hmm. Saving face sucks. It’s really easy to say, “Yeah, I could pay you more if you worked harder. I could also very easily send this job over to Guatemala. I don’t. You are welcome.”

Leaders don’t say that.

And sometimes being a leader means not being an obvious leader when other people think they are in charge.

I own this. It’s mine. These people report to me.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Or so they tell me. Leaders demonstrate thousands of acts of kindness each day and have to trust that it’s for the greater good of the company, and really, society.

Good luck with that.

This is why I am not a leader.

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