Leonidas of Sparta

As with any evolution, leadership has continued to grow, change, develop – then go full circle.  Leadership will continue to revisit old principles, make them seem new again and develop them for a modern day business world.  Right now leaders in business have to train, perform and execute similar to officers of ancient military regimes throughout history.  Today’s leaders MUST be able to execute their jobs at a level equal to or greater than those that they lead.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still a huge advocate of leveraging your strengths; I’m speaking globally, not based on individual tasks or skill sets.

For example as depicted in the movie “300” (if you haven’t seen it, rent it; watch it once for the entertainment value, and once for the education in leadership value) – King Leonidas leads a fearless battalion of 300 men (hence the name) into battle against the Persian Army of a supposed one million soldiers.  Not one of the 300 men hesitates to follow their stalwart leader into a battle in which they are certain will be their last.  Why do these men follow?  Because as a leader, a leader by deed , Leonidas is willing to perform battle along side his men, in front of his men and ultimately carry the same fate as his men.  He is able to perform most any military task at the same level or a level above that of the men he leads.  He maintains his leadership by deed, rather than solely by his “king” title.  This is just one example, there are hundreds of great movies that depict amazing, dynamic leaders in all kinds of different environments.

That is a prime example of leadership by deed rather than by title.  Often people assume that because they are granted the title of “king” (or more likely manager) that their people MUST follow them into battle and assume their fate, after all, they are the manager!  That is quite simply not so in today’s business world.  There is a great quote that says, “managers manage things, leaders lead people.”  Right now, today’s managers MUST be leaders.

Most people have heard of the “lead from the front” philosophy; which says get out there, do it first, get dirty and if you are in front… people will fall in behind you, because you are doing it first.  I agree with this, and you must know that there is a time and a place for this type of leadership.  I personally am also a fan of a kind of “lead from beside me” philosophy.  It is imperative that as this type of leader several things must happen.  What that means is walk WITH your people, show them, perform with them, show them that you can do it; walk the talk!

I’ve been told, if you are on the “side” of your people, then how can you possibly lead… because to lead at it’s root, is to be in front.  I disagree with that statement because the essence of leadership is the process of influencing others to gain their support.  Leadership is influence, it is social status awarded by others through congruency of deeds – leadership is never “awarded” by title.

In business now, right now, more than in the past, people, employees, CEO’s and owners are looking for real leaders, authentic leaders.  An authentic leader by definition is to act, to embody and to participate. Once your people have that deep rooted belief in you and the things that you say and do are congruent, they will follow.