When people’s biggest desire in life is to be a leader, it usually comes out of some sort of narcissism. I would rather see people want to do important, great things that serve all of humanity, and really want to be the best that they can be.
Something invariably happens to that person—they get asked to lead. Why? Because they’re fruitful, good stewards, getting results, doing great things, and they haven’t decimated people in the process. People follow people like that.
People aspiring to be a leader for narcissistic reasons are some of the worst leaders in the world. On the flip side, great leaders are humble and honest. It’s hard to be arrogant when people see all of who you are. How can you brag about yourself when everybody sees all your thoughts, failures, struggles, and weaknesses along with your accomplishments?
It’s about being real, but also knowing what our reality dictates, and what we need to be working on. That’s part of humility—it’s being in a space where you can continually be honest about who you are, where you are, and what needs to get better.
Leaders must also be extremely curious about following, looking at, hanging around, and reverse engineering what great people do. One of the most important things to learn to be a better leader is how to look at the people who do things well—see the pieces in what they are actually doing and learn how to do that.
But what narcissistic leaders do is look at other great leaders and compare themselves, asking, am I good or am I bad? They judge themselves as better than some and worse than others, and it leads nowhere. But if you’re looking at people, not to compare yourself competitively but curiously—to learn and watch to a point where other leaders become models—that is a different story.