3 Ways To Not Be A Leader

In the battlefield drama, We Were Soldiers there is a mountain training scene a little more than fifteen minutes into the movie where Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) looks to Sgt. Maj. Plumley (Sam Elliot) and says:

Moore: Now that young man is a leader. (referring to Lt. Geoghegan, played by Chris Klein)

Plumley: Yes sir. (looking through binoculars in a different direction)

Plumley: But that other fella. That big strong one there.  He wants to win medals.

Moore: (Picks up the binoculars and looks at Sgt. Savage, played by Ryan Hurst)

Moore: He’s eager.

Later in the movie, the men get dropped off behind enemy lines by helicopters. As they set up an initial field base, the battlefield is eerily still, the enemy attacks from what seems like every direction.

Lt. Col. Moore, in the thick of the fire fight tells his radio operators: “Hey! Hey! Calm down! Understand the situation and communicate clearly!”

I believe that is a message that any leader, whether in the military, the schools, corporate world, or church need to take to heart.

Calm down. Understand the situation. Communicate Clearly.

Let me suggest three ways to not be a leader…

1. If you want to not be a leader, sabotage your credibility with social media posts

In some ways I am sure that every modern President is jealous of Franklin Roosevelt.  The reality of his life bound to a wheelchair hidden from public knowledge.  That’s just not true today.  We know when the President makes a run to Starbucks or to grab a hot dog.  We know how many rounds of golf he has played and how many vacation days he has taken.

The technological revolution coupled with the explosion of social networking has had an unavoidable impact on the platform of our public leaders.  Political, athletic, entertainment, or religious leaders all feel its impact.  Think about some leaders who have fallen due to social networks.  Anthony Weiner, Ray Rice, David Petraeus, and more come to mind.

Might I offer three suggestions?

  • Ask yourself: “Am I saying something publicly that has the potential to affect my personal influence?”
  • Recognize that the things you say have the ability to alienate someone from your church/ministry.
  • Remember to check who/what you follow…because it is a reflection upon yourself.

2. If you want to not be a leader, act like Chicken Little

Do you remember the story of Chicken Little from elementary school or bedtime stories with your kids?  An acorn falls from a tree hitting Chicken Little on the head.  He surmises that the sky is falling and sets off to warn the king.  On the journey to the king, he warns everyone he comes into contact with.  In the more popular renderings of the story, a fox lures the group journeying to the king into his lair and eaten.  Because Chicken Little panicked and no one stepped up to lead, people died–ok, that may be a tad on the dramatic side.

Here’s the thing, even if the building is on fire, leaders don’t panic.  When leaders panic people get hurt; people get lost; people get left behind.  Solomon reminds us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV).

One final note, in the book Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley notes that leaders need: Competence, COURAGE, Clarity, Coaching, and Character.  Courage is not the absence of fear, it is moving forward in the face of fear.  Courage is not panicking.  Even if you have to manufacture courage, do it: fake it, ’til you make it.

3. If you want to not be a leader, always never be grateful 

I should begin by acknowledging this is perhaps the area where I need to grow the most.  I need to thank my volunteers more…we all do.  Think about it: when someone thanks you for doing something, how does it feel?  Why would it feel any different for the people you lead?

I don’t have the research to back this up.  But I think it’s safe to assume that there is a direct correlation between the gratitude you show towards the people you lead and the rate of retention you experience.

I believe that these two words will transform your leadership platform more than any others: Thank You.

Say it often. Say it sincerely. Say it publicly

Let’s wrap it up this way:

  • Leaders have integrity
  • Leaders have courage
  • Leaders have gratitude
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