Walter Lippman, the famous American author described leaders as follows: “the custodians of a nation’s ideals, the beliefs it cherishes, of its permanent hopes, of the faith which makes a nation out of a mere aggregation of individuals.”
I think the term “custodian” is a great way to describe a leader. You see the custodian is a caretaker, minder or guardian. Custodians mind, cherish and guard on behalf of other people. They do not spend their time focused on their own self-interest.
That to me is the mindset of the great leader.
When you look at Lippman’s description you can see how, in a business context, the place that vision, mission and values hold in his take on leadership.
When I see him talk of “…custodians of a nation’s faith which makes a nation out of a mere aggregation of individuals”, it reminds me how leaders must not only select the right people, but it is the leaders’ role to make that group of people work together, and become a team which is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
In truth, the only way a leader can achieve that is to become the servant – serving the greater need. The second the leader becomes self-serving – only interested in their own objectives – then all the talk of vision, mission and values disappear!
We need to only look at recent events in the financial services world for examples. The self-serving culture of the leadership in Lehman’s brought that once great company into oblivion. They only served themselves!
The quote from Dee Hock, former Founder and CEO of Visa International, was the source of my title here, when he said:
“If you don’t understand that you work for your mislabeled ‘subordinates,’ then you know nothing of leadership. You know only tyranny.”
How true that is!!
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