The Sacrifice of Authentic Leadership

Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness. – Napoleon Hill

There is a myth about leadership that many people in leadership positions believe. John Maxwell calls it the Freedom Myth. The freedom myth says that when an individual achieves a position of leadership they are also “freed” from certain rules and responsibilities that encumber their followers.  

When someone in a leadership position says something foolish like “I’m the boss and I’ve earned the right to come and go as I please” then you know they have bought into the freedom myth. 

Total freedom is a leadership myth. Here’s a leadership fact: leaders haven’t earned anything but the right to be the example of success that their people need.

Most ordinary people simply don’t know how to succeed. Some people will learn to succeed just by being told what to do but the vast majority of people need someone to show them. Someone who can and will “model” successful behavior. That someone is most often a leader.

Authentic Leaders help ordinary people produce extraordinary results. 

Authentic Leaders know that leading is a privilege. They also know that it does not make them privileged. In fact, Authentic Leaders sacrifice freedoms and privileges everyday in the pursuit of true leadership. 

They make these sacrifices willingly, they make them to help their people succeed. They sacrifice in order to have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those they would lead.

If you are a leader who somehow believes that their position or title brings with it certain privileges that are not available to their followers then you are a leader who has separated themselves from those same followers. 

Your building a wall between yourself and the people who need you to show them how to succeed. The longer you take or accept those privileges the higher the wall becomes. When it gets high enough you’re not leading anymore because your people will refuse to climb the wall. 

Some leaders see their position as an opportunity to better their OWN life. Authentic Leaders, especially Authentic Servant Leaders see their position as an opportunity to better the lives of OTHERS.

When you buy into the Freedom Myth you develop a mindset of “I’ve arrived, I’m it! Serve me!” When you disavow the concept that your position somehow makes you better or more valuable than your people then your mindset can be one of “I may have arrived but I’m not it, you are and I’m just here to help.” 

Are you willing to sacrifice in order to make a difference in the lives of those you lead? Like everything else in life it is a choice…. will you make it?

The Sacrifice of Authentic Leadership

One of the biggest myths of leadership is what John Maxwell calls The Freedom Myth. Basically it says that once you’ve reached “the top” you’re pretty much set. You have it made! You’re free to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it. Freedom!

It’s a complete myth. The higher you go in any organization the less true freedom you have. Authentic Leaders, especially Authentic Serving Leaders, willingly sacrifice some of their freedom in order to lead. But sacrifice they do!

Life is a series of trade-offs and clearly top leaders are rewarded for their sacrifices. Their positions normally come with higher compensation and often, increased prestige. It’s the level of income and the kind of prestige that lots of people want; the problem is, they often aren’t aware of the costs, or sacrifices, associated with having it.

I hope everyone knows that “the top” is achieved through hard work. Yes, there are exceptions; people promoted because their father-in-law was the founder of the company or something like that. But those are really few and far between. The vast majority of people in key leadership positions earned their way there. That doesn’t change just because you may not like them or may not agree with them.

Here is the part where many people have a rather large misconception… being on top is no piece of cake. The sacrificing doesn’t stop. The hard work doesn’t stop. In many ways the sacrificing is greater and in almost every way, the work is harder. The stress of performing in a key leadership position has eaten up many seemingly hearty individuals.

Now, I’m not asking anyone to shed any tears for highly paid executives, again if they are in a decent sized company they are likely well compensated. But… you should stop expecting perfection from them just because they have succeeded in their career.

Key leaders should indeed be held accountable but they should also be supported. It is NOT the job of any of us in the middle to point out the weaknesses of those above us. If your goal is, as mine is, to lead up in your organization then your job should be to discover and FILL any gaps your leader may have.

That might mean sacrificing the opportunity to show how much smarter you are than the person above you. Leaders sacrifice at every level, even in the middle. When you help the leaders above you become more effective you become more effective. You earn more influence in your organization. You advance in your own leadership journey. You do the right thing and that’s never wrong.

Now, one caveat before I close out this post. While I believe that leaders should be supported there are two exceptions. If your leader breaks the law or behaves in an unethical manner then all bets are off.

As Mr. Spock once so eloquently said, “The good of the one cannot outweigh the good of the many.”

Yes, support your leader but never when it involves illegal or unethical behavior that puts the organization at risk.