How would you react to the headline, “Leadership is not a popularity contest”? Your immediate reaction would possibly be the same as mine: “Of course it isn’t!” The very concept seems ludicrous.
Yet why is that?
Stop and think about it for a moment. Have you, as a business owner or manager, perhaps been caught up in the conventional wisdom that buys into the philosophy that, “It’s tough at the top”? The problem with this is that you, albeit unconsciously, start to see yourself as a class apart – distinct and different from all your fellow employees. And that is not a healthy state of affairs, because it sabotages any sense of an organisational team, obliterates organisational integrity, and extinguishes employee engagement.
When you think about it a little more you will realise that it is the word “contest” that causes the problem, because it encourages the sense of challenge and competition. After all, the word “popular” comes from the Latin “popularis” which in turn comes from “populus” which is the root of the English word ‘people’ and is included in words like population. In reality you cannot be a leader without followers – without people – and therefore, by definition, a leader has to be popular.
In fact the concept of an unpopular leader is a complete oxymoron! Anyone in a position of ‘power’ or authority, but who isn’t liked or respected by the people over whom they have such influence, is not a true leader. At best they are empowered by rank.
Of course that doesn’t apply to you. It doesn’t, does it?
Perhaps not, but what are you doing to ensure that you have followers? It may not be a contest, but the more people you have following you – the more popular you are – the more effective you are as a leader. So, whether you like it or not, your leadership shows!