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That sucking sound you hear is the whoosh of corporate culture, organizational responsibility, individual authority, customer service, and general accountability as they’re sucked into the black hole of The Age of Popularity. That black hole is formed by the gravitational collapse of leadership.

In place of actual leadership, we’ve accepted thought leadership. By the very fact that thought leadership is self-serving, it’s not leadership at all. It’s narcissism. It’s self-adulation. It’s a means by which words supplant actions as the measure of authority. It’s knock-off leadership — counterfeit, fraudulent, and ultimately de-valuing. And it doesn’t encourage, it demeans.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
(John Quincy Adams)

Fact: Every organization reflects its leadership. There’s no way around it. Behavior is like water: It seeks its own level in its given environment. If there is no vision articulated, if there is no example set, if there are no standards established, if there is neither enforcement nor consequence, there is anarchy. The only variable is degree.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Responsible, conscientious behavior on the job is, in a sense, a microcosmic morality: It’s a cultural consensus. It’s a social contract in which people agree to do this in service to their customers and each other and, likewise, agree not to do that. The vision, the example, and the standards start at and are emulated from the top.

When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ (Lao Tzu)

Ineffective leaders delegate responsibility. Effective leaders delegate responsibility, along with the authority to make the decisions required to fulfill that responsibility. No control freak, no micro-manager, no one driven by fear, distrust, or intolerance has ever effectively led anything. And nothing — no organization, no nation — has ever been empowered by centralized accountability. (See “History, Human”)

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. (Alexander the Great)

The next time you have a positive experience with any company with which you interact, you can be sure of this: Exemplary customer service is the hallmark of an organization playing a superior game of Follow the Leader.