10 Reasons Why You’re Not A Leader

Do you want to make a difference? Change the culture? Turn the world upside down? Make a dent in the universe? Well, let me tell you that you won’t achieve this without leadership.

Here’s why leadership matters. Culture is defined by 3-5% of people who operate at the top of the cultural mountains. In “Discovery of Society,” sociologist Randall Collins wrote, “between 150 and 3,000 people (a tiny fraction of the roughly 23 billion people living between 600 B.C. and 1900 A.D.) framed the major contours of all world civilizations. Clearly, the transformations here were top-down.”

In other words, leadership matters. The problem is that there are only a handful of leaders who have the right combination of both character and skills while others are doing leadership a disservice by leading ineffectively. Now, the worse group are individuals who “lead lives of quiet desperation” – individuals who fail to lead at all. 

I’d like to share ten reasons most people aren’t leaders. Mike Myatt, bestselling author of Hacking Leadership, and a prominent leadership blogger, shares ten succinct signs to know whether or not you’re a leader. 

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1. You don’t get results: Real leaders perform – they get the job done – they consistently exceed expectations. No results = no leadership –it’s just that simple.

2. You get results the wrong way: If the only way you can solve the deficit described in point #1 above is through chicanery or skullduggery you’re not a leader. The ends don’t justify the means. If you abuse your influence, don’t treat people well, or confuse manipulation with leadership, you may win a few battles, but you’ll lose the war. Optics over ethics never ends well, and being a jerk doesn’t make you a leader.

3. You don’t care: Indifference is a characteristic not well suited to leadership. You simply cannot be a leader if you don’t care about those you lead. The real test of any leader is whether or not those they lead are better off for being led by them.

4. You’re chasing a position and not a higher purpose: If you value self-interest above service beyond self you simply don’t understand the concept of leadership. Leadership is about caring about something beyond yourself, and leading others to a better place – even if it means you take a back seat, or end up with no seat at all. Power often comes with leadership, but it’s not what drives real leaders.

5. You care more about making promises than keeping them: Leadership isn’t about your rhetoric; it’s about your actions.Leadership might begin with vision casting, but it’s delivering the vision that will ultimately determine your success as a leader.

6. You put people in boxes: Stop telling people why they can’t do something and show them how they can. Leaders don’t put people in boxes, it’s their obligation to free them from boxes. True leadership is about helping people reach places they didn’t know they could go.

7. You follow the rules instead of breaking them: Status quo is the great enemy of leadership. Leadership is nothing if not understanding the need for change, and then possessing the ability to deliver it.

8. You churn talent instead of retain it: Real leadership serves as a talent magnet – not a talent repellent. If you can’t acquire talent, can’t develop talent, or can’t retain talent you are not a leader.

9. You take credit instead of giving it: True leadership isn’t found seeking the spotlight, but seeking to shine the spotlight on others. The best leaders only use “I” when accepting responsibility for failures. Likewise, they are quick to use “we” when referring to successes.

10. You care about process more than people: But for the people there is no platform. Without the people you have nothing to lead. When you place things above the people you lead you have failed as a leader.


Top 5 Leadership Books You Don’t Want to Miss

1. Leading with a Limp: Take Full Advantage of Your Most Powerful Weakness

2. The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company

3. Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World

4. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

5. Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader

  • Great 10 points that show a person is NOT a leader. #1 is the most important, if your not delivering results your not going to be leading for long.

  • Very insightful, Paul. Good post!

  • Steven Tessler

    Observed many of these last night. Awesome points!

  • Jimmy Collins

    The number one reason a person is not a leader is that he/she has no followers, A person without followers is not a leader. Titles, roles, positions and authority don’t make anyone a leader. A leader is someone who has attracted followers to help that person accomplish a purpose, mission, or goal. Jimmy Collins http://creativefollowership.com/20131111bp/

  • This was good food for thought. I think that often when we think about leadership, we focus on our own positions, our own abilities, our own power. But really the greatest leaders are people who are committed to their goals and bring out the best in those around them. Thanks for sharing!


  • Rebekah Beene

    Awesome Paul. So true. Praying for true leaders to step forward in God’s spirit for such a time as this. We need them.

  • bestofandy

    I agree with every point. However, most companies fail at every point because their managers cannot invoke change from the top down. There has to be a process that allows management at the top to change and get their employees to thrive.

    • There is a process and it’s called Values Based Leadership! This is a game changer for individuals, families, institutions, corporations and even complete countries.

  • Mike Kellim

    One potential reason for the seemingly lack of manager to leadership transformation is fear. Fear of failing, fear of looking stupid, and fear of reprisal…ultimately fear
    of losing what you have or not getting what you want. Not to espouse that all
    leaders are fearless, they are not. They simply work beyond it, using courage
    to walk through it. The key for progress driven by leadership is momentum. You
    will sometimes not get it right; not even close to perfect – but you will move
    the needle forward if you just simply ‘move’ and take action.

  • Geoffrey Compton

    I would add one other point: you only associate or talk with those at your level. A true leader associates or talks with people at all levels not for the purpose of show but because they want they take an interest in people. For example, eating and talking with the workers is a positive benefit for all.

  • Brendan Bain

    Thank you, Paul. You have hit several nails on their heads. Not just thought-provoking! I want to keep this article and share it with several persons whom I have been training in leadership.

  • Klas Ålander

    Thanks for sharing this article! Nothing strange, nothing new, it is all very obvious, still many people in managing positions fulfill many of the criteria listed. Why is being blindfolded so attractive? The arguments listed must break through the mental barriers of those people, being fully understood and taken to the heart.

  • Anna Kerr

    Great article. #9 reminded me of the fact from Steve Jobs biography (by Walter Isaacson) that he often appropriated ideas of others, taking all credit. He was a great leader indeed.

  • David Zhu

    It is to the point. There must be more reasons we are short of real leaders.

    • Indeed there is. Our leadership worldwide is in turmoil due to a severe lack of THE most valuable component of leadership: Character. (Values, Principles and Ethics). This is why so many leaders at all levels and in every sphere of influence are hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

  • Muthuswamy N

    Some of the confusion regarding point no 2 can be cleared by finding out what is right end and right means! Is a slight deviation from the right means ok for getting to the right end? The answers are pro;posed in my forthcoming e-book about to be released on Aug 3- by smashwords. com- Success through Super Systems- a single dynamic to steer your decisions through life. it is a path-breaking concept and separates true leadership from the phoney.

  • Nadya Dickson

    Great article! Leadership is influence and your influence outlives your authority.

    • Jan Robberts

      Indeed Nadya, as John Maxwell so often states : “Leadership is influence, Nothing more, nothing less.”
      Unfortunately, too many people even misunderstand this to be influence over others; It HAS to be influence WITH people. 🙂

  • massimo scalzo

    Thank you Paul. I was and am in complete agreement with Mike Myatt. I would add just one thing: in my view, you are not a leader if you achieve your goals, whatever they may be, at the expense of the others. In all aspects of life. Because if you do, it means ultimately you care nothing about people. As is so often the case these days. Thank you.

  • Great post Paul. When a leader does not appreciate and look after his/her people, they won’t last long as people are THE most important asset of any organisation. I often hear and see organisations who feel they only need to keep their shareholders happy but being interested only in the numbers will surely disappoint in the long run. In bad times, numbers won’t save a company, people do! Look after your people and they will look after you and your shareholders. As you show in these 10 points, a lack of basic values such as Trust, Honesty and Respect is a major factor why our leadership worldwide is failing.

  • davidmcc44@outlook.com

    Paul, loved the article. However, Number 7 is very misleading. Breaking the rules is immoral and amoral; changing is not if done correctly and in accordance with organizational design, policies and decisions. Ethics and following ethical practices is not about changing, it is adhering to standards. General Schwarzkopf says, “When one has to make a decision between strategy and character (ethics; doing the right thing), then change the strategy. Refusing to break the rule – strategy – speaks to one’s character, which should never be compromised.

    Thanks for another great article, outside No. 7. Keep the Leadership Quest Alive!

    • Matthew Smith

      I didn’t read #7 the same way. Ethics and rules don’t have to go hand-in-hand. E.g.: If your company has a rule that a Support Analyst can’t perform server work, only your systems folks can, but you have a very talented Support Analyst that would do a better job on a certain server project than your systems people, maybe you should take the risk, break a rule, and let him perform the work, taking the heat if it goes wrong.

  • Nabeel Khan

    Clearly you’re not a leader because after reading this I fucking hate you… I literally made a disqus account just so that you know. Do you get it now dumbass? Leadership has nothing to do with likability, and leadership does not require followers. A true leader is in the character. Whether or not people follow you doesn’t determine how good of a leader you are… it determines the intellectual level of the people who were listening. Leadership is about beliefs and whatever those beliefs maybe for YOU sticking to those beliefs.

    That’s a leader. That’s true leadership, because nobody cares how hard you struggled they only care if what you believe in resonates with what’s in their heart. If it’s not in their heart it doesn’t mean shit how likable you can be… deep down you’re still the asshole for trying to explain to people how they can be more human.

    You don’t know shit about experience. And I’m sick and tired ‘Just like the rest of the world’ having to listen to bullshit articles like this online. You want to know what it means to be a leader? Ask one of your ‘actual leaders; and he/she will tell you who they look up to. It’s definitely not themselves and it’s definitely not someone who achieved leadership in their life. A real leader is an inspiration, and that sometimes means giving up what you believe in so that others can realize how important it is that they all need to step up.