The title of this post is really a misnomer. That’s because I don’t believe luck has anything to do with leadership. Someone may luck their way into a leadership position but they must earn the opportunity to truly lead. They especially earn the level of influence they have with the people they lead.
One of the most Authentic Leaders I’ve ever known would tell you a lucky seat assignment on a plane changed the course of his career. As a young employee of a company he happened to find himself seated across the isle from the one of the best Authentic Servant Leaders ever. He also happened to be running the company the young man worked for.
But that’s where any luck ended. The young man would grow into an Authentic Servant Leader himself and one day succeed that Authentic Servant Leader he once sat across from. But not because he lucked into a particular seat assignment.
He earned everything he got. Clearly he had some help along the way but he made the most of that help. He didn’t luck into positions where he could succeed, he worked himself into positions where he could succeed.
He learned and then he learned some more. He made sacrifices and many if not most of those sacrifices benefited others more than himself. Making sacrifices for the good of the many is what puts the “Authentic” in Authentic Leadership.
I’ve seen like a gazillion people who have occupied leadership positions. The vast majority of them are far from being an actual leader. I’ve also been blessed to know several Level Five Leaders. Not a one of them lucked their way into Authentic Leadership.
If you’re not sure what a Level Five Leader is let me explain it this way. If a leader has had a lasting positive impact on your life then it’s highly likely they are a Level Five Leader. If you haven’t seen or talked to them in years yet you remember the lessons they showed you, it’s highly likely they are a Level Five Leader. If you’re showing those lessons to others today, then that leader who impacted you all those years ago was certainly a Level Five Leader.
If you’re in a leadership position don’t expect to luck your way into Authentic Leadership. You’ll have to work your way there. You’ll have to learn. Yes, you need to learn about the business or organization you’re in. But more important than that, you need to learn about people. People in general for sure but especially about the people you lead.
You’ll have to make some tough calls on your way to Authentic Leadership. As you make those calls you’ll need to keep in mind that it’s the people you lead who make you a leader. It’s not your title or position. You’ll need to demonstrate your understanding of that fact even while making decisions that may have short-term negative consequences for the people you lead.
You need to show you care about the people you lead. Even when they screw up. Even when you’re mad at them. Even when it would be easier to just go scorched earth on them.
Authentic Leaders have tremendous influence on their people. They are aware of that fact every day. They model successful behavior for their people. They celebrate the success of their people, as much or more than they celebrate their own success.
It’s a ton of work to become an Authentic Leader. But I’ve never known one who would say it wasn’t worth it. But here’s one thing they would never say, they would never say they were an Authentic Leader. Their humility just won’t allow it.
So when you see one, be sure to say it for them.