CEOs: Do you have supporters or sycophants?
Determining whether you are a true leader or a false one
A leader’s support base is built on many factors, including their method for handling tough decisions, communication skills, ability to achieve goals, confidence combined with humility, empathy, and general leadership skills. The great leaders of history are all flawed but generally revered as amazing people doing remarkable things for their company or country. They may have been justly rewarded, but they also did it for love of their constituency—whether that includes employees, stockholders or the general population.
Overall, talented leaders generate much support, even begrudgingly from those with differing opinions. Winston Churchill, for instance, wasn’t the first choice of many for prime minister—even the king was initially unsupportive—but his leadership skill won people over.
Compare this to the so-called leader who has support from sycophants rather than genuine proponents. Their skills are much different. Their talents lie in using tools such as financial reward, manipulative praise, quid pro quo transactions and charisma, but for the sake of manipulating others rather than genuine. Instead of standing on giants’ shoulders to become successful, they step on others’ backs without acknowledgment. History is full of these as well but also doesn’t treat them well.
A full-blown narcissist won’t change; avoid them at all costs. However, young leaders, regardless of age, must understand the difference between generating supporters versus attracting sycophants.
Talented people won’t work long for a false leader. Bootlickers will hang around as long as the codependent relationship rewards their fragile ego—the false leaders requiring praise regardless of their actions and the followers getting attention from the all-hat-no-cattle personality.
One way to tell you whether you’re becoming a false leader or not is to test your willingness to take criticism and honest feedback. Once you’ve gone to the dark side, you’ll neither care nor know. However, some self-reflection and tough love can pull you back from the brink.
Take a hard look at your team this week. Are they genuine supporters or sycophants? Whichever they might be, they’re a result of your leadership.