Monday, August 30, 2010


I came across three interesting quotes over the weekend on one of my favorite topics, leadership. Leadership is one of the most misunderstood topics in all areas of life, whether you're talking about business, politics, community service, education, or anything else. There is an abyss between the concepts of leadership and management, yet it seems that many people think they are one and the same.

Churchill offered the first quote, and the one that got me to thinking.

"The price of greatness is responsibility"

Winston Churchill

He's right, of course, but what does he mean? Greatness isn't free, it's not handed out in brown paper bags at the grocery store as a gift for those who purchase the requisite amount of sponsored products; it's not sold on eBay to everyone who thinks they deserve it; it's not found in the bottom of Cracker Jack boxes. Greatness isn't even earned or awarded. There is only one way to have greatness in your life and that is to open yourself enough to allow it to flow through your life.

Greatness isn't something you do, it's something you are. But, as Churchill says there is a price to pay for having it in your life — responsibility. Responsibility for what? To whom? Ralph Nader pointed to a piece of that answer when he said:

"The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers."

Ralph Nader

I think those who find greatness in their lives inevitably find themselves in leadership positions. You may not want it, you may not seek it out, but when greatness appears because of the way you have led your life, leadership inescapably follows. And when it does, just as inescapably, responsibly tags along.

There are probably countless responsibilities that leaders are saddled with, but i think Nader is correct in implying that (at least i think this is what he's implying) the top responsibility is to produce more leaders. If a 'Leader' accomplishes anything in his or her life, his top obligation, her overwhelming imperative is to produce more leaders; leaders who can help spread the message, help grow the organization, help improve the operation, help people be all that they can be.

You see, a leader's highest priority is to develop the people who look up to him or her. That's the responsibility he can't avoid as the price of greatness. As Goethe said, "Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat him as he could be and he will become as he can and should be." Leaders understand this, managers seldom do.

If a leader does nothing but increase the number of followers all he/she is doing is feeding his/her ego. These aren't leaders, they are power hungry managers. A leader understands that the story isn't about them but about the organization, about the totality of all the people participating in its operations, from the janitor who cleans the bathrooms all the way up to the people who sit in the boardroom or sit on the zafu at the front of the room. Leaders have no, or greatly reduced, egos. They correctly see their job as developing other leaders, whose job it is, then, to run the organization.

John Quincy Adams provided the third quote, and in it he provided the best definition of a leader. Leaders aren't leaders simply because the nameplate on their door says they are the Top Dog, they are the leaders because people recognize them as such. You can be the Top Dog, and people can still see that you are only a manager, nothing close to a leader. As Adams says:

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

John Quincy Adams

So if you think you are a leader, take a little time each day and ask yourself whether or not the majority of your time is being spent inspiring others to dream, learn and become more.

As Jim Rohn always said, in probably every talk that he gave, "It's not what you get that makes you successful, it's what you become that makes you successful." (or something close to that). A manager helps you 'get,' a leader helps you 'become.'

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