Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Leader or Celebrity

Common belief suggests that the test of whether you’re a leader or not is to see if anyone is following you. If no-one is following you then you are not leading anything or anyone.

The problem with this, is that many people consider themselves great leaders because they have a lot of followers. One characteristic does not necesarily follow the other. A rock star or celebrity can have crowds of people swarming after them, crooning, screaming and wanting to emulate them. Whilst some may use their status to further a cause does that status make them leaders?

Our current culture however has subtly sent the message out that to be a good leader you have to be popular. To be popular you have to be engaging, entertaining, make people feel good etc. I am surrounded by people in positions of leadership who have assumed those roles by popularity not by any true vision, passion, purpose or courage but simply by the fact that they have made themselves popular and asume that because they are popular they are a leader.

How many leaders are actually struggling to find passion, direction and purpose because they have focussed their energy in their ability to entertain. Maybe you once had a purpose and passion but are you dancing to the expectations of the audience, keeping the ticket sales up and the auditorium full. Ask yourself then whether you are really leading or performing. 

People through the ages that have lead ideas, nations or even just small enterprises that have changed the course of history have not cared whether there was a crowd that followed. They have been true to what they honestly believed was right and the vision they had, even at their own peril. They have stepped into spaces that have been unpopular and have even disturbed the norm.

Its that courage and sense of purpose that drew people with them. Its not something they engineered.

In an age where social media and political correctness also instills a notion that you have to have lots of friends or “likes” to be recognised, any provocative input is simply to get a response to achieve this.

Many people that have influenced our world have made themselves vulnerable and expressed the loneliness of forging beyond the accepted norm.

To “lead” means your going somewhere. Are you really leading people to a destination? Does your destination exclude your own popularity? Are you basing your "success" on the number of people around you? Are the people following you just fans?

Are you using them or are they using you?

Are you just a celebrity?


  1. A good short read Martin and I agree many of our 'Leaders' today not only seek popularity but don't mind displaying a shallowness in doing so.......

  2. Enjoyed reading this one Martin. I have always believed that you are not a good leader by how many are following you but by how many of those you have turned into great leaders. For me its all about influence and impact. Leaders should have an influence that is making an impact, and that is seen through the development of those leaders under your leadership. Any thoughts?

    1. It is certainly about influence. I would not limit it to only leadership development however but to influencing the best in people and in guiding those in reaching their full potential whether they are leaders or contributors to the outcome.