The more I read about the News of the World hacking scandal, the more I am convinced that we are currently experiencing a crisis in leadership. Not sure? Then answer me this: how many of the major players in this sorry story - be they police, politicians or members of News International - come out with their reputation and our respect firmly intact? It is hard to think of one.
Good and authentic leaders and bosses are, I fear, increasingly hard to come by. When I wrote my bookInside Out - How to have authentic relationships with everyone in your life, I surveyed over 1000 people to help with research. Only 20 per cent of those I interviewed said that they always respected their boss, which leaves 80 per cent who don't. That would suggest that there are quite a few leaders out there who aren't getting it right all, or even some, of the time.
So what makes a leader worth following? Is it their intellect, skills, experience, talents, drive, vision, success or enthusiasm - or is it more than that? I asked those I surveyed what were the main qualities they wanted in a leader and the answers that came up again and again were integrity and honesty. The next biggest hitters were fairness and vision, followed relatively closely by humility and trustworthiness.
Their answers would indicate that someone's character, perhaps more than anything else, dictates how others perceive their leadership. Simon Walker founder of the Leadership Community believes that "leadership is about who you are, not what you know or what skills you have." That is because what a leader exhibits on the outside is an expression of who they are on the inside and, whether they want it to or not, who they are will impact on those they are seeking to lead, for good or for bad.
Wouldn't it be great if we could have leaders who aren't just brilliant at what they do but who also have intrinsic values and are authentic to their very core? Leaders who don't just talk the talk but actually walk the walk. Leaders who can be trusted not to corrupt the power they are given and who care not about their own self-interests but are other-centred. Leaders who can relate to and connect with those they lead, who can serve as well as be served and who can read any situation and determine what kind of leadership style is needed for the here and now. Leaders who are not held back by their own fears, defences or personal ambitions, but are free in their leadership and can step down or away when the time is right.
In all areas of society we are crying out for leaders like that...ones who are truly worth following. Perhaps it is time we started electing and promoting people based on their character as much as their skills, charisma, results and experience. Only, then will we get that the truly authentic leaders that we long for.