All too often, modern media values extravagance over effectiveness. We, as a distraction-hungry population focused on instant gratification and over-stimulation, gravitate towards individuals that do and say outrageous things.
But there's big difference between charisma and leadership. And it's important to note the difference.
Charisma sells. It, along with glamour and excessive self-indulgence, appeals to a wide range of people struggling to survive a chaotic and stressful world. Because when you're trapped in a maze looking for cheese, little moments of distraction create a sense of relief from the pain and suffering of your limited and frustrated existence.
Leadership is often quiet. A true leader doesn't need to be the loudest person in the room. Nor do they need to make controversy through outlandish behavior. In fact, doing so is contrary to inspiring and motivating others to cooperate.
Instead, real leaders--the ones that motivate and inspire others--do so through congruence. They do what they say, practice what they preach, and allow their palpable presence to do the talking for them.
An authentic leader listens and creates space for the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of others to be heard. Because that's what it takes to lead--fostering an inclusive environment that privileges communication and the sharing of ideas.
The truth is that the best companies--the ones making an impact--do so through collaboration. There is no one mastermind creating everything in isolation. Instead, teams of diverse individuals work together to iron out a vision that can change the world.
Therefore, a leader cannot and must not be a distraction. They must be a facilitator. Someone that empowers others to perform their best, even if that means suspending their thoughts and feelings to create a teaching moment.
As a former musician, I like to think about it like this: a leader is not a solo artist--a leader is the conductor. And if you've ever seen a great conductor, it's nothing short of magical.
Their hands glide through the air in a magnificent display of grace, while their bodies resonate with the vibration of the entire orchestra. They become a vehicle through which the music flows and connects with everyone in the auditorium. It's almost as if they disappear and there is only the moment of creation--the music itself.
That's what a true leader does. They become one with their team to such an extent that they almost disappear. Almost. Because, yes, their presence is also needed in certain moments.
Much like a conductor, the art of leadership has to do with keeping a cadence and rhythm for others to follow. The effective leader must know when and how to intervene. They must, through wisdom and intuition, impose just enough structure to keep everything afloat without getting in the way.
Keeping the focus on everyone else--the musicians--allows for the creation of something transcendent: the music, which becomes far more powerful than any one voice, instrument, or melodic line.
That's why you, as a leader, must realize that your role is that of a conductor, not a solo artist. The important title that you hold isn't for your glorification, but for the betterment of your company. And part of improving your company involves getting out of the way and encouraging your employees to do what they do best.
While the rest of society asks you for interviews, praises your leadership abilities, and turns you into a thought leader, you must keep that separate from your business. You must continue treating others with compassion and honesty, knowing that your role is to facilitate, not distract. Because the moment you walk in acting like you are better than your employees is the moment you lose them.
Demanding that you be the center of attention takes away from the collaborative process. It makes people feel like they need to treat you differently because your role. And over time, it teaches them to treat you like a title instead of a person.
For a leader that values growth, being treated like a title is terrible. People become afraid to give you feedback, tell you the truth, and ask questions. They are so afraid of being perceived as incompetent that they pretend to know what they're doing even when they don't. And all of those issues make your job far more difficult than it needs to be.
Don't waste time, energy, and effort trying to undo a toxic environment when you can avoid constructing it in the first place. Get out of your own way, stay true to yourself, and remember that the most influential leaders aren't loud. They just embody their values and facilitate the creation of a beautiful group process that allows everyone to contribute.