Why Don’t We Have Better Leadership?

Better leadership?This question even though asked repeatedly, goes unanswered. There certainly is a plethora of leadership training to be had and the books on leadership are unprecedented in numbers. Have you looked on Amazon under leadership lately? Still why do we suffer under poor leadership? Why is there not Better Leadership?

Maybe we’re asking the wrong question?Better Leadership? Perhaps a look under the surface of leadership will reveal some answers. What is underneath the missing leadership?

As I reflect and connect the dots of my experience working with people for over 20 years, I’m reminded that leadership training rarely if ever changes the individual. The most common complaint is when returning from leadership training nothing changes.

Too often we see people who appear well prepared for their chosen career or craft through academics, technical training and practice but below the surface they are ill prepared personally for consistently good leadership.

At the peak of their success, they plateau, crash, burn or derail.  We see this demonstrated on the evening news with people who appear to have mastered life as an athlete, politician, CEO or other corporate, family or community leader.

Generally, some portion of their life shows up as incongruent, deeply flawed or dysfunctional. It could be anything, political vengeance, an affair leading to a failed marriage, insider trading, drug or alcohol problems, or in some cases, just poor judgment.

All the training in the world cannot hide who we are, at least not for very long.  For example, if you’re a weak basketball player but tell others you’re great, in very short order your lack of prowess will be revealed. On the other hand, whether you are actually a congruent leader of high standards is not readily apparent. It takes time for your actions to corroborate your words.

It could take one week, one month or several years, eventually we will be found out. When things get tough, as they are inclined to do for leaders, our real agendas, mantras and flaws will “leak out.” We simply cannot out-perform our character.  Character defines who we are before we attend leadership training.

If we are to be a good leader and contribute (Better Leadership?) we must first be a good person.  The individual is the instrument of leadership. To bring about better leadership, we must first develop the instrument. If we miss this, we will spend our time futilely working on the symptom not the problem.

Whether we accept it or not, responsibility for character development lies with the individual. It doesn’t happen by itself or through someone else. We cannot bathe in the pleasure of our accomplishment without first taking responsibility.

It is pragmatic to strengthen and deepen our character. Depth and strength of character ensures that your covenant is more than just words. Strength of character ensures that you will walk your talk and talk your walk. It is strength of character that operates above circumstances. Strength of character is about making our behavior a function of our decisions not our conditions, not the weather, not depending on if we have had our coffee, not the economy, not the situation. We purposefully choose to behave in such a way as to align our actions toward our values, character and integrity—tenets most important in our lives.

Personal growth precedes professional growth. Character development precedes leadership development.

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