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Beware the Unenlightened Leader

Published April 14, 2018

Everyone knows how important leadership is to the long-term health of any organization, and we strive to be the best leaders we can be. But knowing how important leadership is won’t be enough to help an organization accomplish its goals and objectives. We have to be great leaders who create a culture that supports the organization and creates the future. In order to be a great leader you have to surround yourself with the best people who are as good or BETTER than you. That’s right. Better than you are. That’s what enlightened leaders do. Unenlightened leaders on the other hand do just the opposite.

I had an experience with one of my companies several years ago where I met with the leadership team running the restaurants and overseeing the operations in a particular market. As I got to know everyone on the team I realized that everything they told me was almost the polar opposite of reality. For instance, most of the folks I was told were low performers were actually quite good, and those folks I told were top performers were mediocre at best. This struck me as being incredibly odd. But it was only after spending more time with the team that I realized what was happening.

Unenlightened leaders who operate from a place of fear do not want to bring people on who potentially might be better than they are. They feel threatened by top talent and would rather keep people around them who will not challenge them, will not strive to be better, and will not make the people around them better. It becomes a cyclical nightmare where mediocrity breeds mediocrity. It feeds their need for control, ego and superiority and that will destroy an organization if left unchecked. In this particular example I began to see that the leadership was afraid that their performance issues, and the root causes of those issues were going to be exposed, instead of bringing in the very best people and getting better, together. Once we began to make the necessary changes, we found talent in the organization that we didn’t know existed and we got better in a hurry.

An enlightened leader fully understands it is not about them and that bringing in talented employees who can make everyone around them better, including the leader, is what creates a culture that supports true innovation and allows an organization to thrive, and not just survive. An enlightened leader realizes that tenure doesn’t always equal excellence and developing future leaders means that you build a culture of leadership development is sustainable and reproducible, which is the key to long-term success.

When we put an emphasis on hiring the best people, ensure that they are trained properly, and allow them to work in their strengths zone, we cultivate a culture of excellence that raises the bar of performance for everyone on the team, and that will help ensure that the efforts put towards leadership development will have an amazing return on investment. In fact Gallup research shows that people who get to use their strengths everyday are six times more engaged in their jobs than those who don’t.

Be that enlightened leader that helps their team uncover their talents and direct their strengths to allow them to perform at their very best, and create a culture that continues to reinvest in the next generation of leaders, who will never fear surrounding themselves with people who are better than they are. As a result they will accomplish more than they, and you, ever thought they could, which keeps the goodness happening over and over again through a culture of sustainable leadership development.