Today I was doing my normal news/blog skim and came across an article written by a blogger about a gentleman who seems to have some noble goals. It started off well. The piece was about this guy’s goals of helping others in his generation (my generation) to become leaders, find their personal successes, and build their independence. I can get on board with all of those ideas. As a matter of fact, I’m working to do strikingly similar things and began to seriously consider reaching out to him to see if we may be able to brainstorm together or if I might learn something from him. He seemed like a cool guy. Let me say that again with some emphasis, he SEEMED like a cool guy. What I mean is that he was actively working to make himself seem interesting and cool. The conceit was almost palpable.
To a certain extent the article was pretty good and had me completely bought in. The problem began when I got to the interview section in which the blogger threw some questions at who we will refer to as the “I-Leader” (I for Impostor and also due to his self-focus). The questions were good, the answers were not.
The interview essentially flowed in this manner:
“Hey, you have some really great ideas. What has inspired you to do this type of work and lead others to achieve success?”
“Well, while meeting with (insert gratuitous name-drop here) after we fortuitously crossed paths during a speaking engagement at (magnificent/exotic location here) and had a great time with our girlfriends…etc…etc…You know, it was really a lot like the movie (edited to protect innocent parties)…etc…and we finally came back and I had this idea.”
“Tell me about your latest program, what pushed you to focus on Leadership/Mentorship?”
“After selling (X-company) I thought about (name-drop celebrity here) and how they have inspired me to build my personal life. I realized that I shouldn’t just relax with my fancy things, but help others.”
Within each response from the “I-Leader” was a fluffy, look-at-me, grandiose story or shameless name-drop. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I’m still holding onto the idea that a couple of the most important qualifiers of an effective leader or mentor are a sense of selflessness and humility. An effective leader (as clearly opposed to this “I Leader”) should never have to fluff his story to make himself seem more interesting because he really doesn’t care about being interesting, he just cares about being impactful. An effective leader knows that the story is never about him, but about others.
None of this is to say that leaders and mentors shouldn’t be interesting. Actually, I think that every person I have considered a mentor has had a demeanor that makes them seem “larger than life”. The difference between them and the “I Leader” is that they have never shown an interest in peppering stories of their life with flowery or bombastic narratives in order to sound interesting because they look to their impact to uphold their merit. Due to the efficacy of their work they are authentically interesting without having to weave in haughty self-facts or name-drops.
So I leave you with this:
If you are going to work to be an effective leader don’t waste your time trying to convince other people of your coolness, it’s a big turn-off. Just do your work to the best of your abilities, uplift others, and if you do it right they will do the talking for you.