Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall have written a thought-provoking book that challenges conventional leadership practices in organizations. The book is called Nine Lies About Work – A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World. Buckingham and Goodall dispute common beliefs that leadership can be learned via research that reveals common traits, competencies, behaviors and/or characteristics of leaders. They argue that leadership is idiosyncratic – a distinct set of traits, behaviors and experiences that is unique to each individual. The key, rather than learn leadership theories that sort leaders into categories, is to discover what is unique and distinct about you that distinguishes you from others and that makes people want to follow you.

The following excerpts are taken from Nine Lies About Work – A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World:

  • This is the true lesson in leading from the real world: a leader is someone who has followers, plain and simple. The only determinant of whether anyone is leading is whether anyone else is following.
  • So the question we should ask ourselves is this one: Why do we follow?
  • We follow leaders who connect us to a mission we believe in, who clarify what’s expected of us, who surround us with people who define excellence the same way we do, who value us for our strengths, who show us that our teammates will always be there for us, who diligently replay our winning plays, who challenge us to keep getting better and who give us confidence in the future….This is not a list of qualities in a leader but rather a set of feelings in a follower.
  • We should not expect every good leader to share the same qualities or competencies, we can hold all good leaders accountable for creating the same feelings of followership in their teams.
  • We need not dictate how each leader should behave, but we can define what all good leaders must create in their followers.
  • Leadership isn’t a thing, because it cannot be measured reliably. Followership is a thing, because it can.
  • No two leaders can create followers in quite the same way.
  • Your challenge is to find and refine your own idiosyncratic way.
  • Your ability to create the outcomes you want in your followers is tied directly to how seriously and intelligently you cultivate your own idiosyncrasy and to what end.
  • The deeper and more extreme your idiosyncrasy becomes, the more passionately your followers follow.
  • What we see in the best leaders is a few signal abilities refined over time. But now, these abilities are so pronounced, and the leaders so adept at transmitting them to the world, that they stand out to all of us. And so this truth: we follow spikes.
  • We do this not merely because a leader who has deep mastery in something will be able to excel at it but because these spikes change the way we feel about the future.
  • Real-world leaders hardly use the word (change) at all, realizing that their followers want instead an increasingly vivid picture of the future, not another reminder of its inherent uncertainty.
  • Your greatest challenge as a leader, then, is to honor each person’s legitimate fear of the unknown and, at the same time, to turn that fear into spiritedness.
  • We entrust some part of our future to a leader only when we get something in return. That “something in return” is confidence. And what gives us confidence in the future is seeing, in a leader, some great and pronounced level of ability in something we care about. We follow people who are really good at something that matters to us. We follow the spikes.
  • The truth is that leaders are not good or bad – they are just people who have figured out how to be their most defined selves in the world, and so do so in such a way that they inspire genuine confidence in their followers.
  • The truth is that leading isn’t a set of characteristics but a series of experiences seen through the eyes of the followers.
  • We need to get to know real leaders in the real world, and we need to come to know them as followers ourselves. Then we can start learning.
  • If you understand who you are, and hone that understanding into a few special abilities, each of which refracts and magnifies your intent, your essence, and your humanity, then, in the real world, we will see you. And we will follow.

It is highly recommended that you read Nine Lies About Work – A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World.