The Attitude of Leadership


The bad leader is hated and feared,
The good leader is loved and praised,
The great leader, when their work is done,
The people say, “We did this ourselves.” (Lao Tzu)

Of the leaders and teachers I have met, the most effective have the attitude that their job is to create the conditions that allow others to grow and prosper. Then their organizations, and their society, can grow and prosper with them.

Jack Welch said something similar, as probably many others have. Whoever deserves the credit, it’s a favourite definition of mine because it captures the notion that leadership is a generosity practice, and it’s best offered indirectly, by creating favourable conditions.

The idea that we lead people is a great source of difficulty in high places. If instead we are able to influence circumstances so that people have what they need to proceed well on their own, then our accomplishment becomes leader-proof and self-sustaining. We can’t stand over a plant and say, “Grow!” We place it in the right soil, temperature, water and sunlight, and the plant does its own growing.

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