Cold and warm leadership

2019-05-27

I got a bad association with leadership in grade school. The teachers always seemed to assign high leadership scores to the kids who were the biggest jerks.

This rudimentary, childish leadership came from a terrifying combination of confidence and cruelty helping them manipulate everyone to want their approval. They were popular, and many were bullies, and the adults in our lives praised them for their leadership ability.

If that’s what leadership is, I want nothing to do with it.

Not that I’m judging the kids. The way they acted in elementary school doesn’t make them bad people. They were kids, and besides, people learn and change. I’ve had phases where I manipulated people with confidence and cruelty. I’m not proud of it. Eventually I grew out of it.

Let’s call the strategy of manipulating people into following you by exploiting their need for approval “Cold Leadership”. It’s fragile and exhausting, and even when it works it quietly turns people off.

It took time, but I’ve learned that there’s an alternative. Leadership through honesty, vulnerability, openness and caring. Warm Leadership. Being honest and vulnerable communicates confidence without brashness or cruelty. It’s a power that comes from within. It’s strong enough to sustain itself. It makes people want to follow you, learn from you, help you.