When leadership becomes a cult of personality…the culture finds itself revolving around a leader…rather than around a greater goal, mission, a greater good.
There has been a long history in our world of chasing after charismatic leaders…those bigger than life figures that command our presence. Leaders that exude confidence and strength wherever they go and in whatever they do. They are special lot…few and far between. Which is why they often catch our fancy.
We are drawn to them…even more than we want to be. They have a certain magnetism or allure that we find ourselves captivated by…be that their charm, wit, intelligence…or even physical appeal. We want to be near them. We want to bask in their glow. We find ourselves fascinated and enchanted by them.
Which becomes a problem…as we find ourselves drawn more to the leader and who they are, than by any purpose or vision they are trying to attain. Their leadership ultimately becomes an organizational cult of personality…as they become the center, the core of the community. Which is why some organizations plummet and fall into disarray when these leaders leave…for the core of the organization has placed its value on a personality over a vision. And unfortunately, many charismatic leaders revel in this…believing it shows just how vital and important they are to the ongoing success of the organization.
Which is why history has shown us is that the most charismatic leaders are not always the best leaders…
Very often, in the same way we are drawn to these charismatic leaders…they are often drawn us, to the attention and accolades that we drape upon them. They become addicted to the spotlight and all of the plaudits, acclaim and acclamation that comes with center stage.
And the more this cycle continues…the more these leaders will ingrain the belief that it is their leadership that is the cause of success. And people will continue to follow them and be attracted to their leadership…even though they often leave their people and the organizations they lead diminished… languishing in the aftermath of their exit.
And yet, we will hire them again…we will continue to be lured in by their charisma, their appeal…only to find that they have subtly wreaked the same havoc across another organization. Which is why…
Great leaders, whether charismatic or not, understand that the goals and vision of the organization are bigger than them…bigger than their leadership. They don’t look for approval and accolades…they look to create more leaders and a culture that is self-sustaining. A culture that is so focused on the vision that it will survive just as well without them…as it does with them.
For great leaders understand that great leadership is truly grounded in the serving others selflessly…and much less about the serving of your self.
It is much less about a cult of personality…