The Role of a Leader

This week, I’ve been inspired by Ken Chenault, the exceptional CEO at American Express. Chenault says: 

“I think what’s important for me about leadership (and I’m really passionate about leadership because I think it’s critical, no matter what you do)…I follow a quote from Napoleon. And I always preface this with ‘I don’t want to end up like Napoleon.’

But it’s a quote, frankly, that I think about every day because I think it’s what a leader has to do. The way I paraphrase the quote is: ‘the role of a leader is to define reality and give hope.’

When you think about that quote, it’s very simple, but if you put it in a leadership context, what’s very difficult about leadership is you’ll have very well-meaning people who will try to sometimes distort reality. Not intentionally, but they may just tell you what you want to hear. And part of your job as a leader is, really, to find out what the real deal is.

“But that’s not enough. Then you’ve got to put together a strategy that galvanizes people, that gives them hope that they can overcome the obstacles or achieve something that they didn’t think was possible. So ‘define reality and give hope’ is, really, what I believe is most important for a leader.”

Define reality and give hope. Yes. That’s your job. Everyday. 

If you have both skill sets, use them often. 

If you don’t, then either develop what you are missing or find a strong partner who complements you. Organizations can run in the short term with one or the other, but long term they need both to be successful.

Share this article on...