2 November 2015
They say that you should never meet your heroes, but that makes life a little hard for any aspiring leader, especially in any form of organisation, blogs John Bowen.
Of course, in a large organisation not that many people get a close look at the person at the top, but its immediate team will, and the same applies to every team leader throughout the organisation.
I'm linking heroes and leaders here because in many ways the leader has to be a hero or heroine; it is part of that charismatic thing that separates good leaders from those who are just occupying the role; an 'X Factor' if you prefer. It isn't an essential characteristic, but if it is there it makes a considerable difference because people follow much more willingly.
So where does the line about not meeting your heroes fit? That tag comes from the worlds of sports and entertainment, where someone who achieves popularity often turns out to be remarkably unlikeable as a person when they are away from their chosen spotlight. Someone may be a hero on the playing field, stage or screen, for example. They might be adored by the hundreds, thousands, or even millions who see them perform, but what you see is not what you get when you meet them in person, and if you do meet them your illusions can be shattered when they turn out to be someone you would not want in your life.
You don't have to look too far to find certain extreme examples of this in the celebrity world.
People in an organisation need to have the mindset that guides them to values to which they can adhere - not just when in front of their teams, but at all times. There is a self-imposed pressure that keeps them true to those values even when they are alone.
The alternative is the "Do as I say, not as I do" culture, but that is not a sustainable leadership model.
Finding your true values, your personal code, may not be easy, but the great leaders do it and so do the good ones.
Most of us who aspire to be leaders will never be great; in any field the truly great are necessarily a rare breed, but we can all join the ranks of the good, and we can do that even where the environment in which we operate does not support it. In fact, it is sometimes the easiest thing to do in those circumstances because your behaviour will stand out from the herd and that has certainly worked for me in situations where the management style relied on cowardice and bullying.
Think about what is important to you and set your standards accordingly.
That may take some soul-searching, but you can get there and then the really hard work starts because you need the self-discipline to live those values. They must be more that a veneer - they must run right through like the letters in a stick of seaside rock. The closer that you can get to achieving that, the better your leadership will be because your team will have a higher level of belief in you.
John Bowen is an FM consultant