A person might be smooth as oil, but if he executes power through distrust and duplicity, they’ll be deposed. And many questions will follow after him.

Power in a position is one of the most difficult tests a leader can face. It reveals your inner soul or inner snake. In most organizations, the consent of the led is rarely taken into account which is unfortunate. I do not think human nature has changed all that much through the millennia, but certainly—at least in the Western world—historically low violence, the high level of education, and ability to communicate as easily as we do lends itself to choice and buy in.

But less about the led (although doing right by your people is a core of leadership), leaders—real leaders— imbue all their people with power. They are transparent, trust their subordinates, back up effort, and don’t play favorites. A miniscule number of subordinates may be unwilling to reflect trust back. But most of the led I have ever seen are eager for leadership which inspires, transforms, creates a break from the mundane common experience of self-serving “managership”.  Too often the experience of most of us involves that duplicity I mentioned, but also disrespect, disregard for real achievement, favoritism, and demoralizing feats of hypocrisy.

The conflict is between what comes easy and what betterment demands. Beautifully put in of nasty conflict and human nature, in Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy writes,

“It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.”

But that’s the conflict. War, conflict, abuse, overreach have all always existed. But not all people take part in it. I would argue that honorable history is shaped by a few men and women who break the mold of human nature and show something new— something just as eternal but sadly less seen.

The nature of men is self-aggrandizement. Those who practice it as the cost of other’s trust in them call it “pragmatism”.  It’s bullshit because it wrecks teams. The burden of leadership is to transcend that, to become the ideal of a team, a thing that represents the team’s highest intentions.

If you exalt your team, your team will see you exalted. Leadership is a high and holy calling.

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