Everybody would like to describe themselves as a leader. Everyday, new books on leadership come out in the marketplace. Leaders are seen everywhere – industry, society, and, of course, politics. Yet, in our culture where greatness is often measured by sound as opposed to achievement, I thought it would be helpful to define the things that distinguish the true leader from the infamous”cheerleader.”
* Cheerleaders are thermometers, while authentic leaders are thermostats. Where thermometers measure the weather, thermostats change it. This is the best analogy for me. While thermometers stick their hands in the end to see what direction the wind (or audience ) is moving, the legitimate leader determines their course and follows it. They do what they think is best for everybody involved. Often true leaders need to change opinion until they can be recognized as a pioneer. They’re ready to do this so as to make an actual difference.
* Cheerleaders are often victims, while authentic leaders are constantly owners. Cheerleaders will often blame anybody or entity besides themselves if something goes wrong under their direction. With true leaders, in the words of Harry Truman, “the buck stops here.” True leaders desire responsibility for the decisions they make, apologize for their mistakes, and will look to discuss honor with other people when things go well.
* Cheerleaders concentrate on themselves, while leaders focus on the reason. There’s nothing more dangerous than getting from a cheerleader and a mic, TV camera, or photo op. Such men and women are interested in themselves and very little else. True leaders are worried about the cause or the undertaking. “Who” gets the credit isn’t nearly as critical as the job getting done! This is one of the largest differences between cheerleaders and true leaders.
So how do you become a real leader? You become goal oriented, know what you will do before you set out to do it. You become a person of principal, which means you aren’t tossed flippantly from project to project. You construct those around as much you do yourself, developing a robust and integrated network of individuals working on precisely the exact same cause and all on the same page. These are the steps one takes to be a real leader and to avoid the temptation of being a mere wannabe.