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There are no leadership secrets

You have seen the books--the ones with titles like The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell, and even The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus (honestly). In fact, an Amazon search for “leadership secrets” yields over 62,000 results. Clearly, there are a lot of secrets out there. Yet, for all the precious secrets in print, from Christ to Hitler, and in between, many people aren’t getting them. Why not?

Why do we see so many leadership failures? Why aren’t The Secrets taking hold and creating a new breed of enlightened and successful leaders? It certainly isn’t because the books aren’t selling. Why, then, do we have this leadership crisis in the face of so many leadership secrets? I offer four reasons for the exercise of poor leadership:

  • Silver Bullets -These would-be leaders are scouring the chapters for a magic trick, a shortcut to bring them success. But, only the Lone Ranger had the Silver Bullet - and he was fictitious. Leadership is a complex skill that evolves over time.

  • Reality Leadership - Like its counterpart, Reality Television, Reality Leadership is more about being entertained than educated. Readers in this category are not leaders at all; they are merely spectators. Rather than watch “Survivor,” they read how Jean Luc Picard fought the Borg in The Leadership Secrets of Star Trek and convince themselves that they’re developing new skills.
  • Abdication - The author’s personal success story gives him/her the opportunity to write the book. Their victory against the odds is supposed to inspire us to new heights. However, these stories can impart another set of feelings in the reader: intimidation, resignation, and detachment. Readers may simply shrug and say, “This doesn’t apply to me.” When they don’t buy in, they check out.
  • Laziness - Readers know what they should do but choose not to do it. Leadership requires energy, excitement, and a willingness to become involved in the process. It takes hard work, but some folks don’t want to rise to that challenge.

It’s time for a pop quiz:

  • Have you read any books on leadership?
  • Did any of those books offer exercises for you to do?
  • Did you actually do all or even most of the exercises?
  • Are you still doing the things the exercises asked you to work on?

For many people the answer to the last question is, “No.” So, there is a more fundamental question. Why don’t people embrace the secrets? The answer is in the titles. You read The Leadership Secrets of Leader X and, thus, were a casual observer or a mildly interested participant in the exercises. While the reading may have been interesting, inspiring and inviting, it wasn’t infectious, it didn’t become part of you. The secrets remained those of somebody else. You must be “infected” so that these secrets take over your body. You need to make them your own.

So, I have a proposal for you. Sit down and write your own leadership book. It may never get published, but you already know the title: The Leadership Secrets of [insert your name here]. It will be the best book you ever read.

Wally Adamchik is President of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting. Visit the website at www.beaFireStarter.com. He can be reached at 919-673-9499 or wally@beaFireStarter.com.

"Thanks for a fine presentation at UCT. I finished your book and it was a great read! After reading, I put together several pages of key points that I will try to work into my daily thought process."

Kevin Miller
Miller Pipeline