The Simple Truth of Leadership

Complexity in Leadership

Our current society seems to validate leadership when it’s supported by complex, intellectualized back-up material. And no one seems to question it.

As a matter of fact, every day more research gets financed and leadership models are produced to “improve the leadership dynamics” as we know them. This has led to a wild growth of information on the subject, which by now seems to be covering up the simple truth of leadership:

It’s a natural dynamic of leading and following governed by life itself.

Keeping it Simple

Unfortunately it seems like we have decided globally that leadership should be complex. Our minds are being boggled by the most technical theories, development strategies, and leadership language to supposedly accomplish one thing: Inspiration.

I once was told that whenever there is complexity there is ego: Whenever there is simplicity, there is truth.

Indeed, inspiration is the one fundamental element to any leadership dynamic. There is no true dynamic of leading and following without inspiration. But we have somehow intellectualized inspiration to be something that can be done by someone.

Understanding Inspiration

Now have a look at this description by Wikipedia:

inspiration  [in-spuh-rey-shuhn]:

‘Inspiration is prior to consciousness and outside of skill (“ingenium” in Latin)… Technique and performance are independent of inspiration… Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creativity.’

Inspiration can happen THROUGH us but, not consciously BY us.

You can never make people follow you. Everyone can always choose not to. Any theory of personal influence and inspiration is therefore subject to deletion. Still, funded research and expensive leadership development teach us that people will follow our lead if we ‘influence’ and ‘inspire’ people by acting or communicating a certain way.

Understanding Control

Of course, this concept of  “inspiration through control” undoubtedly carries the risk of failure, so we, as a society of achievement, have agreed to build in a repercussion and reward system:

If people follow our lead, then they will get the appropriate reward… if they don’t… Control has therefore become indispensable to this version of leadership.

Control has hollowed-out the natural beauty of inspiration. We have moved to an autocratic form of mechanized achievement in hopes of normalizing results to a predictable scale. We have taken away the natural stimulus that works properly and have replaced it with a saccharin form of motivation.

“Control” replaces “inspiration” with those with no creative way to inspire.

It’s Not Personal; It’s Business

We have overexploited another beautiful wonder of life: non-personal leadership dynamics. We have tried to make inspiration a technical tool for some people to ‘make others follow their lead.’

We’ve set up a vertically controlled instrument called leadership, which has not much in common with the natural truth of the all-inclusive dynamics of leading and following.

Everyone leads, everyone follows, all the time.

This is true regardless of our position:

  • Professional experience
  • IQ
  • EQ
  • SQ
  • Heritage
  • Skin colour
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Etc…

We’re all constantly part of infinite dynamics of leading and following. Not acknowledging yourself as a leader is not acknowledging yourself as a human being.

Not recognizing yourself as a follower is believing the dance that the ego tries to dance with you.

Big Questions

This stirs up a few questions:

  • Why is a majority of people still looking at a minority to “lead the way?”
  • Why are the select few still trying to support their ‘leadership position’ with a smokescreen of technicality, superiority, authority and intellectual expertise?

By now we surely must realize that our hierarchical, complex leadership structures are not sustainable other than by increasing control. And history shows how the increase of control leads to political, economic, or social revolution.

Abandoning the Collective Wisdom

So here’s an out-of-the-box yet very simple idea…

Let’s kick-start the revolution against our collective leadership idea now.

Instead of waiting for the painful process of unavoidable messy turmoil, why not stop right here and turn over the controlled government of hierarchically man-powered influence? Let’s explore what happens when we go back to the bare essence of leadership.

In a time where our so-called securities and structures are crumbling, we could invest in even more control – which seems to have put us here in the first place.

Or we can choose a healthy, sustainable, all-inclusive alternative called Leadingship, which is as natural – and free! – as life itself.

This revolution would lead us back to a horizontal, ego-free, non-personal dynamic of ‘inspiring and being inspired’ in which people can play their roles according to their authentic qualities and passion. No expensive technical back-up material needed. Money, time, and intellect can be spent on causes that support all of the 6.9 billion people.

So what are you doing to investigate the vestiges of collective false wisdom that might not be serving you so well? How are you re-evaluating the “truths” you have believed that might be leading you to try to control rather than inspire your team? What steps can you take to improve your Inspiration-to-control ratio?  I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Arnold Timmerman
is Founder of Truth Unlimited
He provides “Leadingship” Training & Coaching throughout all organizational levels
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4 responses to “The Simple Truth of Leadership

  1. I think you are on the money right.
    We seem to believe that in the ultimate good world we have made so many rules that only the right way is open and everybody lives happily ever after because we all follow all the rules. Perfect!
    Reality is of course (which I am happy for); that for every rule created there will be two (at least) ways invented to circumvent that rule. The sad thing is that our society tries to stop those circumventions with three other rules and they create each two circ . . .
    Leaders that can handle small independent organizations are much easier to find, than a new Gandhi. Today’s technology (the information age) gives us the possibility to have small businesses and small local government entities. At the same time the technology makes it impossible for one leader to handle it all.


  2. Pingback: Conflicting Truths: When Inspirational Messages Betray You! | QUOTES OF ENCOURAGEMENT·

  3. Leadership is only authentic leadership when offered with an open hand, leaving 100% of the decision to follow to the follower. And one can only offer that kind of authentic leadership when the fears of not being able to control and of being controlled have been met truthfully. Real inspiration is not something one does purposefully in order to “influence” and “motivate” (different, maybe slightly more elegant, worlds for control) others but something that happens quite naturally, organically if the need to inflate an image of self, team or organization falls away, if one doesn’t care about the outcome, if one is courageous enough to be a fool for authenticity.
    Inspiration according to The Free Dictionary: “stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc., to special or unusual activity or creativity” = an offering which leaves it up to the “inspired” to bring about creative action and what kind of action.


  4. Hi Arnold, There are some great examples of organizations that have already adopted more open leadership styles.
    John Lewis Partnership invites employees to be owners / shareholders in the business with each person being responsible for leading the business in their own way. Similarly, Richard Branson has always supported a similar approach in his business and in his latest book he talks about the importance of community based approaches to leading, where everyone is involved and working cooperatively.

    There really is no need for top down leadership, I agree. It seems to me, to be akin to trust. My experience in working for different organizations is that management often build systems and structures that often seek to control the few people who might abuse that trust (totally coming from fear) and in the process, disheartening everyone else in the business who can be trusted!

    It always comes back to the same thing, whether it is leadership or life. Do you want to come from love or fear?


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