Hazards of Leadership – Addicted to Applause
As a leader, I must make a decision to be the mascot or the coach. The mascot gets cheers and laughter while being protected by anonymity. The coach makes difficult decisions, stands with dignity and has no privacy as the crowd second guesses him.
If we need, crave or become dependent on applause, we, possibly, no longer effectively lead. We will do what the crowd wants. How can we make the hard decisions if receiving a commendation is prerequisite? Every leader will have to make unpopular decisions.
To break free from the addiction to applause, try these ideas:
1. Disengage from the fervor of the mob. I have found that the crowd is rarely right. If you get the chance in eternity, ask a leader named Moses about spending 40 aimless years in the desert, becoming frustrated and never seeing his legacy in a land promised by God because the crowd took the lead. Don’t misunderstand, I believe in democracy and appreciate living with a representative government. But even when I have the right to choose a leader, I want a decision maker not a crowd pleaser.
2. Embrace guided collaboration. We can listen to feedback, even criticism filtered through a trusted team. There is nothing more energizing than working with a team that learns, challenges and directs out of their relationships.
3. Follow. Great leaders tend to follow greater leaders. No one really functions in a vacuum. Leaders learn from leaders who teach. Leaders gain skills from emulating skilled leaders. Rivers are most powerful in the canyons because they are channeled by the walls. In the valleys, rivers become stagnant swamps. Following implies some level of accountability. Following enables us to put the applause in perspective.
4. Humility lasts longer than applause. I heard the story of a football coach advising his championship team. On the night of the final playoff, he told the players to put away all the articles and awards they had received. He told them that the other team hadn’t bothered to read them. Many non-leaders think that leadership is only about pride, ego and self-confidence. Veteran leaders know it takes something deeper. We find that depth in humility.
5. Don’t fear an overwhelming opponent. Often even designated leaders are unwilling to take action or are paralyzed by fear of the future. Long before he was crowned king over Israel, a young boy named David faced this scenario. So how did he lead the people to victory when they had given up? He told us his leadership strategy. Faith in God should be in our skill set.
“David said to the Philistine: “You come against me with a dagger, spear, and sword, but I come against you in the name of Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel’s armies…” (1 Samuel 17:45)
I like mascots and believe they are valuable, but there is nothing quite as rewarding as coaching.
Originally published on James Clark’s LinkedIn.
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