What Leaders Get All Wrong About Leadership


I did leadership all wrong for years. I held leadership positions without understanding effective leadership practices. My early education was in theology. Tragically, I had no training in leadership.

My leadership journey includes powerful, sometimes painful, shifts in attitudes and practice.

The first shift:

Leaders hold spotlights rather than stand in them.

I thought leaders were stars. But, leaders aren’t actors on center stage. They play supporting roles and work backstage. Most importantly, leaders are the audience.

Too many leaders need the spot light, too few give it.

Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.” Think of an organization as a stage. Team members and employees are actors. Leaders are the audience.

Everyone needs an audience.

Actors crave audience approval. Audiences praise effort, achievement, and excellence. Cheers and whistles make work worthwhile.

Actors fear audience disapproval. Boos and jeers sting.

The power of respect is the power to build up others.
The more respect you earn the more your approval matters.

An audience helps people see themselves. A few summers ago my wife and I had a rare exchange of words. We were yelling over something that we’ve long forgotten. In the process it dawned on us that our windows were opened and the neighbors could hear. Oooops!

In a flash we saw ourselves through the eyes of others. We still laugh at how foolish we must have sounded to our “audience” and how quickly we quieted our volume.

Respected leaders help others see themselves.

Actors whisper, “Did you see so-n-so is here tonight?” when dignitaries sit in the audience.

Actors feel important when someone important is watching.

In my youth, I thought leaders stood on center stage. Now I know leaders are the audience.


Read the growing list of leadership shifts on the Leadership Freak Facebook Page.

How can respected leaders fully embrace and express the power of being an audience?

What are the limits of the audience metaphor?

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