First rule of leadership: Everything is YOUR fault

– Anonymous

A while ago my mentor John C. Maxwell stated something very profound,   

“All things rise and fall on leadership.”

Most of what John says is profound, but I must be honest that when I heard this years ago, I heard what he said, but I didn’t fully understand what he was saying. As I continue to grow and mature as a leader, with many victories and failures, I have come to understand the magnitude of John’s words.

Today, we tend to equate leadership predominantly with success. If a company is growing, we attribute that growth to the executives within the organization. If a sports team wins a championship, we credit their performance to the leadership within the coaching staff and even certain players. If a nation is thriving and finds itself serving as a blueprint for prosperity and power, we credit the leadership of its politicians.

When we witness success in any avenue of life: individually, corporately, personally, or professionally, that success is directly credited to leadership. While this is true, is it also true that when we witness failure, that too is credited to leadership. A company’s declining performance cannot be laid at the feet of the employees, just as the failure of a sports team who is suffering a losing record cannot be laid at the feet of its players. The economic and moral decay of a country cannot be laid at the feet of its citizens and the breakdown of a family cannot be laid at the feet of the children.

Whether in business, sports, family, religion, or politics, make no mistake, leadership is the catalyst of success and failure. The condition and quality of any given organization is not by chance. No person or institution acquires success or failure by mistake; someone led them there because
leadership is everything!

As we look at the news headlines that dominate the pages of Facebook, Twitter, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and The New York Times, we see that every country in the world finds themselves confronted with a leadership dilemma. Racial clashes, crime, religious conflicts, political corruption, poverty, disregard for authority, abuse of authority, sexual abuse, the collapse of families, civil anarchy, and terrorism are certainly the symptoms of moral decay, but more so due to an absence of resolute leadership.

The constant collapse of leaders across our culture in business, sports, entertainment, politics, and religion has severely eroded the trust, hope, and confidence of the people who elected, appointed, hired, and followed them.

The Edelman Trust Barometer is a survey that has been conducted for the last 18 years. In 2012, the Edelman Organization began to measure the general populations trust in the four key institutions of business, government, NGO’s, and media. Across all four of these areas, Edelman discovered a piercing decline in the level of trust people had in these entities.

One indicator I found particularly interesting was people’s view of CEOs in corporate America. The study revealed that,


60% of respondents believed that CEOs are driven more by greed than a desire to make a positive difference in the world.

Additionally, the macro business sector was rated across 28 different countries. Participants were asked “How much trust they had in the institution to do what is right.” The United States was 1 of 14 Countries who decreased from the previous year’s study and had the greatest decrease out of any country measured.

The Edelman Trust Barometer concluded, “To rebuild trust and restore faith in the system, institutions must step outside of their traditional roles and work toward a new, more integrated operating model that puts people and the addressing of their fears at the center of everything they do.” The research shows and the tabloids confirm that Corporate America, the avenue where people will dedicate approximately 1/3 of their lives, is in desperate need of leaders.

We need leaders who are more concerned about people than their own personal ambition. We need leaders who are more interested in building people than companies. We need leaders who are willing to listen to the voices of their employees over the voices of Wall Street. We need leaders who not only have vision to see new products and buildings, but have the vision to see the hidden leader, potential, and value within their followers.

So what explains the decline in leadership across our world? More importantly, how do we move forward and heal the areas of society that have been wounded by those in leadership positions both past and present? I will address a simple answer to these questions in my next post “The Guardian of Influence.”

If we truly desire to see our world change for the better, our leaders must change. Our expectations of leaders must change. The criteria and standards we have in place to promote, elect, and appoint individuals into positions of leadership must change. If our standards, expectations, and view of leaders does not change, nothing will change in our world. We will instead continue to experience the unraveling of global institutions and cultures because,

“Leadership is Everything!”