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The Confused Leadership

I was watching a documentary yesterday about Elizabeth II. While washing the dishes, I wondered, "What do these fantastic leaders have in common? Why did we admire her so much?"


Yes, we know the buzzwords that leaders need to be empathetic, resilient, forward-thinking, visionary, self-aware and all that, but that's not that! I was like, there is something that all these great leaders do, and we haven't been paying attention to it.


Because of this oversight, we confuse creative and fantastic business people with being great leaders. We often hear names like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Henry Ford or Richard Branson regarding leadership, claiming that achieving what they achieved was due to their leadership. That is not true. They are or were good business people, nothing more, and people may follow them because they want to get as rich as they are.


Now let's look at leaders we admire, not for their money. Hopefully!


Nelson Mandela, Alex Fergusson, Gandhi, Queen Elizabeth II, Martin L. King, Churchill, Sheik Mohammed, Sheikh Zayed, The King of Bhutan, Sir David Attenborough, and Abraham Lincoln.

What makes them a leader? There is one word missing from leadership books, and that is duty. They all had a sense of duty, a moral obligation and a responsibility to serve a group of people.


Business leaders don't have that. They serve themselves and the shareholders. Don't get me wrong; I don't find it wrong. Business is business. But we mustn't confuse business people with leadership. On Friday, I spoke to a senior leader who is about to take up a role, and he said, "I am just in it for the money". I don't find it weird hearing this. 99% of business leaders are in it for the money, and we need to get a grip on it. That is why leadership, as we know it is poor. We expect these leaders to lead like they have a sense of duty to serve others. They don't! They won't.


Real leaders do what is necessary and right for the people. They do duty! Their duty is to serve and lead the people through difficult times and crises. They are there to hear the pain and provide comfort. They show up when we need them the most and always serve our interests.


None of that exists in the business world, so we may need to redefine leadership and make it more realistic and context-appropriate. If we continue mistaking good business sense for leadership, we will maintain the current status quo of confused leaders and employees.


Unfortunately, we cannot instil the sense of duty to serve people, but we can teach them how good businesses are run. Good businesses understand that the people of the business need to be taken care of in order to generate more profit. They also know that the ultimate aim is profit which sometimes requires harsh actions like layoffs, but how it is done is equally important. And because harsh measures are on the table every day, they don't scream WE ARE A FAMILY from the rooftop because they know that sooner or later, they will shoot themselves in the foot.


Henry Ford understood that. Richard and George Cadbury understood that, so why can't we?


That's because we have confused leaders with the wishy-washy leadership BS by talking about empathy and creativity while all we expect of them is profit. We can do both but through a very different approach. An approach that has clear metrics highlighting how people are treated and its financial impact on the business.



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