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Recently I have been reading an enormous number of books and articles about leadership.  Some are excellent and thought-provoking. Others…not so much. I will not chastise the ones I found lacking nor will I glorify the ones that resonated with me.  That is not the intention of this post.  I will, however, make an attempt to express what it was about the material that did one or the other for me.

Leadership is not about how many buzzwords of the day one can include in their material or presentation.  It is not about fancy catch phrases, nor is it about Polly Positive Hype.  In fact Dr. Scott Dunnavant, former staff member of the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy®, created a phenomenal “Starred Thought” about just that:

“All hype and no substance makes you a fluff head.”

Excitement is good.  Being excited about leadership is good.  But being excited without any sort of direction is nothing more than empty hype.  At its least destructive it merely shortchanges the listener / student. At its most destructive it works people up into an uncontrolled frenzy.  Positive and successful leadership provides others with a solid foundation of WHY they should be excited and HOW they should direct their energy!

Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser always says, “Before you can lead others you have to first lead yourself.”  Far too often people put on the face of leadership without embracing or believing in what they are saying.  They speak the words but they do not live by them–they are not a true example of what they want YOU to be.  Living the words, or as Dr. Tim says, “Walking the walk and not just talking the talk” is what separates real leaders from those who like you to believe they are leaders.

There is an enormous amount of smoke and mirrors out there as well when it comes to leadership.  Buzzwords and catchy phrases are being used to make you believe someone’s brand of leadership is NEW. Here’s a newsflash for you gang: leadership is as old as time itself!  It’s not something someone thought up the other day, nor is it something MAN created.  Look at the animal kingdom and you will see far better leaders in a pride of lions than you will see in some local communities.  Dressing up leadership philosophies with all sorts of bells and whistles tends to make me question the foundation that particular leadership philosophy is built upon.

Once Alice arrived on the other side of the looking glass she found out things were not as they originally seemed.  A good leader will look at him or herself in a mirror and will see what it is they want others to see.  A good leader will not woo you through the looking glass into a world of illusion—they will encourage you to stand next to them so you can gaze into the mirror together in order to see the true reflection of leadership: trust and understanding, support and honesty.

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