Fake Leadership

There certainly seems to be a lot of news lately about fake stuff. There’s fake news, fake websites, and even fake, or at least disingenuous, people.


While much of the “fake stuff” is new and can be mostly attributed to the rise of the internet there is one fake thing that has seemingly always been around. That one fake thing is Fake Leadership.


Fake Leadership happens when someone gives the appearance of leadership without really leading. They may have a title or position that indicates they are a leader, they may make big decisions, say big things and even have great success in their careers. But they are missing one necessary characteristic of nearly all Authentic Leaders and absolutely all Authentic Servant Leaders.


They do not build people and they do not develop more leaders.


Fake Leaders may have tremendous business success but that only proves they were great managers. As I have written on numerous occasions there is a singular distinction between managing and leading….you manage stuff, buildings, inventories, budgets, and plans but you lead people. 


Leadership is about people and only people. Many people are blessed with both management and leadership skills but many, many more are not. Frequently when people possess only one of those skill sets the one they possess is management. 


A manager builds a successful organization mostly on their own efforts. They outwork and out-think most everyone around them. They are successful albeit a bit selfishly so. But here’s the thing, there’s really not all that much wrong with that, I’d rather be a very successful great manager than a not so successful mediocre leader. 


What is wrong with it is when that person claims the mantle of leadership. I don’t know if they are trying to fool themselves or the people they try to manage but either way, if they are not building people they are not a true leader.


While a manger builds a successful organization a leader builds people who then build the successful organization. In the case of an Authentic Leader they truly care about the people they build; in the case of an Authentic Servant Leader they may very well care more about the success of their people than they care about their own.


A strong manager’s organization will have success as long as the manager is present to ensure it. A leader’s organization will outlast their leadership so long as the leaders they built continue to build people who become leaders themselves. The success of an Authentic Leader can go on virtually forever, the success of an Authentic Servant Leader does go on forever.


If you want to know if someone is a leader don’t look at the leader, look at the people around them. If those people are not growing, if they aren’t involved in the decision making process, if they aren’t responsible for at least part of the success, then it’s safe to say that the person above them isn’t really leading. 

If a person isn’t leading, regardless of the title or position they hold then they are simply not a leader. If they say they are then you’ll know they are a fake.

15 thoughts on “Fake Leadership

  1. This is a excellent commentary and one which I agree with, however, I’ll add one more thing from experience. If the team being led/managed isn’t open to being led, it is very difficult to lead them no matter how hard you try.

    1. I think that’s too, you can’t force someone to drink from your well of leadership but the best leaders don’t even try, instead they work to make their people thirsty.

  2. Great insight, I personally might be wrong about my leadership skills. Perhaps I do lean towards manager and not leader. Grate food for thought.

    1. Thanks Jay, remember, there is nothing at all wrong with being a good manager. Lots of people move back and forth from manager to leader…it’s just important to understand the difference.

  3. Great Post: There is definitely a trend these days for companies to hire leaders vs managers. CEO are noticing that managers simply push the companies policies and monitor productivity. Yet, leaders are more than people centered, real leaders practice what they preach. But like you say…. there’s a place for them both. Who do you believe should be given more hierarchy?

    1. Thanks for your comment, the strong temptation is to say leaders are more important in an organization than managers but they are really both vital. Absent one or the other the organization is in a lot of trouble.

  4. I agree with this 100%! From my own experiences I have come to believe those who are called to be leaders have a different view of the world and a clearer perspective in where they find their personal values and meaning in life in order to serve/lead those who aspire in sharing their perspectives.
    ~We can help change the world One life at a time

Leave a Reply to Catreana ( Katrina )Cancel reply