Leadership – What Is It Not?

John Maxwell believes that “Leadership is influence.” There is truth to this statement, but it does not completely define leadership. The purpose of leadership is as important as the ability to influence.

I like the following definition for leadership because it captures the unique qualities of courage, action, vision, influence, and the heart of a leader: “To courageously and passionately pursue a vision in such a way that it resonates with the souls of people.” When you consider all of the great “leaders” over the centuries, you begin to see the difference when you use this definition, though most of them qualify as people of influence. Compare Hitler and Jesus, for example. Undoubtedly, both were men of great influence, but one’s influence was in the heads of people through fear; the other resonated with the souls of people through love.

Most of us recognize the normal attributes of a leader, and SpaceCoast Business magazine’s selection of 2011

Business Leaders of the Year encompasses all of them: passion, drive, positive thinking, goal setting, influence and energy.

I am going to take a non-traditional review of leadership and examine the actions that you will find, or in many cases it is the traits you will not find, in great leaders. The goal is to help expose the imposters; people that I refer to as the impression management artists of the world.


A real leader never has to tear down others in order to elevate their own status. True leaders build others up and avoid the temptation of entering the public controversy created by the self-serving impression management artist.

Principle: “Speak only what is TRUE, KIND and NECESSARY.” – Ancient Sufi tradition


A real leader never waddles in the negativity of the world but will fight in an instant for what is right. They understand that negativity affects you as much as what you are negatively focused on, and that you’re wasting time dwelling on the matters you cannot control. Leaders are masters of avoiding these confrontations and focusing on the issues that they can influence.

Principle: “Plant bad seed, you will grow bad crop.” – Bible


With intention, they inspire those they lead at the heart level, and the unintended consequence is that they confuse the mediocre and create fear in the hearts of the opposition. This is the paradox of great leadership. You can never stand for something and please everyone, especially when the mission has value and you desire to help others. All great leaders face extreme opposition; it is the point and time when leaders realize that they are making a difference.

Principle: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein


Their vision is so clear about where they are going that they pursue it like a lion chasing a gazelle; there are no distractions, only the target. Their singular focus many times causes people discomfort, but they remain on course. A leader does not have time for the distractions of life. Yet, the masses continue to want them to detour from their intended path. The leader understands that only objects in motion will ever reach a target.

Principle: “Dogs don’t bark at parked cars.” – Jeff Piersall


The leader lives on the mountaintop out of reach of the gutter dwellers, but works in the trenches or valleys where the soil is rich and the people are. They understand that cooperation is not who is right, but what is right. They are constantly working no matter the pain to do only what is right.

Principle: “Just do what is RIGHT.” – Chris Burton


Humility is the example they set in how they live their life, and their focus is on whom they lead, not their leadership. The mission is far more important than his or her own personal achievement. This has become our number one problem in political leadership, and we continue to struggle to find politicians who possess common sense and humility anymore. The perks and power are so overwhelming that even the best of men are contaminated by the industry of politics. Ignorance is not permanent and humility is the cure, because a leader learns from history and their mistakes.

Principle: “You can’t fix stupid.” – Ron White

These rare birds we call leaders; they are like eagles – found one at time on high perches hunting for the next opportunity.

As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

Compare Hitler and Jesus … both were men of great influence, but one’s influence was in the heads of people through fear; the other resonated with the souls of people through love.

Jeff Piersall is the CEO of SCB Marketing, which publishes SpaceCoast Business magazine. Contact him at (321) 537-4941 or jeff@scbmarketing.com

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