False Leadership

I intended to stay out of the social media fray about the death of Usama bin Laden. I write about leadership, so it seemed unlikely I would be compelled to comment about anything related to his death. And then it happened - I was watching a news program with my husband, Jeff, on Friday night and an anchor made the following comment, "...bin Laden acted in a cowardly manner before his death." The anchor did not elaborate (though many conflicting reports have surfaced regarding issues such as the use of one of his wives as a human shield), but I couldn't help thinking about that comment. Let me say that if I had started a self-proclaimed "war" with the United States and I had members of the US Navy Seal team show up in my bedroom in the middle of the night, I'm pretty sure I would react in a manner that many would call "cowardly" - those guys are not to be messed with - no matter who you are. That being said, I hope I would be the type of leader who would not ask others to do something I was not willing to do - which brings me to the point of my blog - false leadership.

For years, bin Laden asked, encouraged, and downright compelled people to take violent action toward others that would inevitably cost them their own lives (i.e. suicide bombings, hijackings, etc.). All the while, he took great measures to ensure his own safety - first in the mountains and caves of Afghanistan and then in a million dollar compound in Pakistan. He hid while others died - surfacing only to stand in front of cameras and encourage additional violent action. As a leader, you should never ask a follower to do something you would not do, but bin Laden did just that for at least a decade and maybe longer.

None of us want to see ourselves as the same type of leader as bin Laden - after all, we are not encouraging others to kill innocent people and give their own lives in the process. No, when we compare our demands on our followers and the results, we certainly are not like bin Laden. But that's not the real question.

The real question is whether we are asking our followers to do things we aren't willing to do. While our false leadership may not have the devastating effects that bin Laden's did, it does have its own negative effect on our team. It's really a simple "true" or "false" question - what type of leader are you?