Not full of themselves

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong - The Philippine Star

Today’s culture is infatuated with leaders and leadership. Everybody seems to want to know how great leaders succeed and what they do to keep on succeeding.

I have listened to other speakers pull out stories of our tycoons and taipans picked up from their biographies or autobiographies. I have also heard speakers name-drop successful business leaders or political figures in their speeches as they want to make an association.

I suppose it is only natural to be curious about what makes great leaders great, but being obsessed with it is very unhealthy.

Successful business leaders have their own lives and they want their privacy to be respected. When they go to a public place they are usually surrounded by people who engage them in conversations wanting to pick up a tip or two on what stocks to invest or what new business they can get into. Others are just plain curious about them. But this can be dehumanizing.

I have transacted business with many of them and here is my observation. They are flesh and blood humans just like you and me. They are not obsessed with all these “leadership stuff” and they are not infatuated with themselves as today’s culture is with them.

Here is the key. You will never hear successful figures talk about themselves because to them it is totally irrelevant. The reason why they don’t talk much about themselves could be because they do not think much about themselves. Instead they think, concentrate, focus, and obsess about their businesses because that is what matters to them.

Contrast this to those who have not yet made it to their status and listen to their tales and stories. They’re so full of themselves. While they obsess with those who have “made it,” they exalt themselves into thinking that by obsessing with them, talking about them, pretending to be like them they would one day be like them. That will never happen. Duh!

The established leaders understand that leadership is not about the leaders themselves, it is not about their positions, and possessions. It is not about their habits, qualities, certainly not about their political leanings, their pet peeves or fetish, and it’s not even about their being visionaries (ad nauseam ad infinitum).

It is about their work and their responsibilities. It is about their need to protect and grow their business and how they can grow their investments and put the resources to good use. Their true success is not about the “rags-to-riches” stories, though they give hope and inspire people. Rather it is all about one single thing: how well they run their companies. The leadership thing that matters to them is how well they lead their people, prepare their successors, and prepare a stronger and bigger business for the next generation.

This is why it is very difficult for trainers and speakers to speak on leadership when they have never led a successful business to speak of in the first place.

And if they have not, they will have to name-drop, copy materials, pick up stories from books, and use other people’s examples to make a point.

There is no such thing as a stereotype leader. Every situation is different, the context is different, the timing is different, and this is why to present a canned-leadership program that promises to be effective for everyone who follow it is a logical fallacy that does not even make sense in the first place.

What should be done is to present leadership tools that must be put together pertaining to its particular need and context. The business landscape changes fast, technology develops at exponential speed. A leadership program cannot have a long shelf life. If it is, then the program is probably presenting principles that are irrelevant. The speaker, trainer, or presenter has to be in the thick of the business battlefield to understand things. Fluidity replaces frameworks, soft skills are now hard skills, and leadership training must be very fluid, pertinent, and relevant.

It’s amazing to see that while I do the training, even the top honchos of companies would pull out their pen and paper and take down notes that I share with the participants. And why is this? Because they are not obsessed with leadership clichés and stories of other people, they want cases, they want ideas, and they want to use the ideas to improve their businesses.

I guess the “leader-wannabes” will never understand this. Many of them are so full of themselves trying to impress their clients with their “honors and achievements,” perhaps they still need to build credentials. And then they miss out on the most important thing. Leadership and success is not about the person, it is all about the outcome of the work or business because, at the end of the day, that is what truly matters.

So let me conclude by saying something I keep on articulating in my Level Up Leadership program: “Leadership begins with you. But it’s not about you.”

(Francis Kong with his highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership learning event will be back with its next run on June 5-6. Early registrations and reservations can be made by contacting April at +63928-559-1798 or register online at www.levelupleadership.ph)

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