quote on leadership

In the context of writing about the current election drama for Newsweek, Martin Linsky writes the following on leadership…

Elections aren’t about leadership. They are about winning, and winning requires pandering: telling people what they want to hear. Leadership is often about giving people news they don’t want to hear. My favorite definition of leadership is disappointing your own people at the rate that they can absorb.

How about that last sentence??? “My favorite definition of leadership is disappointing your own people at the rate that they can absorb.”


Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

4 thoughts on “quote on leadership

  1. One thing I like about our current conference leadership is that there is less happy talk than there has been at some times in the past. Leaders have to tell the truth. Sure, if we tell the whole truth all the time, people will shut their ears (unless the truth is all good and nice). I don’t know if its my generation, my life experience, my personality or what, but whenever I hear someone who is purely and relentlessly positive and upbeat I tune it out as fakery.

  2. I totally agree. It is like we were talking about with the whole reports thing. If every group brings their report to church council and it is only the happy wonderful things we have done and we don’t own up to… “This is where we suck, help us to get better.” Then what is the point? Then the whole thing screams affirm me. The greatest moments of leadership are ones you would never choose to be in the middle of.

  3. Yes, I think that is a strength of this definition of leadership. I myself am given to a bit too much happy talk while in the process of trying to keep positive energy driving a situation or in trying to manage expectations in a positive direction. What I need to grow in is skill at avoiding “happy talk” AND avoiding negativity that moves us from inaction to despair. I’ve set up a stark contrast, but I really mean to find the lesson in the middle. Negotiating that line between positivity and happy talk on the one hand, and happy talk avoidance and negativity on the other is difficult work.

  4. How about the following revision:

    “…leadership is telling your own people what they truly need to hear at the rate that they can absorb.”

    That makes it sound less negative, but says pretty much the same thing.

    But, it’s not as memorable.

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