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Jesse Lyn Stoner


Leadership That Matters

‘To lead people, walk beside them.’

Published: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 17:30

Leadership is not necessarily about getting people to follow you. In fact, the test of leadership effectiveness is what happens when you’re not there. If everything depends on you and falls apart when you’re not there, obviously the effectiveness of your team is limited. You can’t be there all the time.

At times you might be in front. But other times, it might be more effective to be among those following, as illustrated in the story about The Empty Carriage.

Or in the words of Lao Tzu:

“To lead people, walk beside them.
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.
The next best, the people honor and praise.
The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate.
When the best leader’s work is done the people say,
‘We did it ourselves!’”

Leadership is about influencing people to go somewhere together. Once they are mobilized, movement takes on a life of its own.

Leadership itself is inherently neutral. It can result in either good or evil.

History offers plenty of examples of leaders who united people to commit horrible acts against fellow human beings. We don’t have to go far back into history to find them: Hitler and Pol Pot on a large scale, and on a small scale, Jim Jones and Charles Manson, for example.

History also offers us a lot of examples of leaders who united people on a large scale for common good and took us to a better place, such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. And there are many examples on a small scale. Interestingly, these leaders are not as widely known as their negative counterparts, perhaps because we assume the point of leadership is to take people to a better place.

Leaders unite people around the dream of a better future—for themselves and for their children.

When that dream is exclusive—focused on self-interest or the interest of a specific group—others who are not part of that group suffer.

When the dream is inclusive—focused on self-interest and the greater good—everyone benefits.

This is leadership that matters.

First published 10/26/2016, on Jesse Lyn Stoner's Blog. © 2016 Jesse Stoner


About The Author

Jesse Lyn Stoner’s picture

Jesse Lyn Stoner

Jesse Lyn Stoner, founder of consultancy Seapoint Center, has worked with hundreds of leaders using collaborative processes to engage the entire workforce in creating their desired future. Stoner has authored several books including Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2nd rev. ed. 2011), co-authored with Ken Blanchard. Stoner is recognized by the American Management Association as one of the Top Leaders to Watch in 2015 and by INC Magazine as one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts. Stoner has advanced degrees in psychology and family system, and a doctorate in organizational development.