There is a dramatic difference between a self-centered driven “leader” and a vision-centered team leader. In this follow up to one of my most popular posts ever on Visionary Leadership, we take a deeper look at key differences in influencing others from an ego driven motivation and a healthy place.

Here are some telltale signs of the difference:


Demands vs. Coaches

Coaching others takes more time and energy than merely demanding others follow your commands. Coaching requires a building of others to be able to grasp and accomplish the vision without continual oversight and micromanagement. Demanding others merely complete a task ensures the self-centered “leader” is forever strapped with the stress of making sure their vision is accomplished. Coaching is more involved and requires a high commitment , but in the end, will allow a leader to hand-off a large part of accomplishing the vision allowing him or her the ability to keep casting the vision instead of managing task accomplishment.


Relies on Authority vs. Relies on Goodwill

A self-centered leader is heavy handed and will state their positional title, power to hire and fire. I’ve heard of one CEO who would walk in and berate her staff screaming, “Whose name is on the building? Who signs your (expletive) pay check? You’ll do what I say!” This leadership by fear guarantees employees won’t be invested, will see their role as nothing more than a job, and ultimately will put in minimal effort.

A vision-centered leader will build goodwill—by developing friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings and attitudes.  The likability of the leader is important in this endeavor but isn’t the only issue. The leader must foster and fight for unity within the team, dealing with conflict and sharing the vision in a compelling way so that the team’s buy-in is high.


Issues Ultimatums vs. Generates Enthusiasm

Leaders frame things. Information and data about progress toward the end-goal is never presented in a vacuum. The self-centered leader tends to cast poorly reflecting data as the end of the world while placing ultimatums on whose head is going to roll if things don’t improve.

The vision-casting leader can present the same bad news as an obstacle to be overcome by the team. A surmountable obstacle can actually build camaraderie within a team. This positive, can-do attitude is contagious. Soon team members will feel empowered to do their part to overcome any roadblock or obstacle.


Thinks I vs. Thinks We

It is dangerous for a leader to think primarily in terms of the effect of a decision on him or her. This plays out in many ways. Maybe the leader scheduled an after-hours meeting but then a personal event has come up which conflicts with the meeting.  A self-centered leader will quickly shift the meeting with little or no regard for those who have already adjusted their schedule. A visionary leader thinks in terms of we and will sacrificially forgo the fun event for the betterment of the team.


Uses People vs. Develops People

A fundamental metric in any organization is the turnover rate. Some organizations are led by self-centered leaders who don’t mind the churn and burn of employees. They continually discount the real contributions others make and treat them as if they are easily replaceable.

Another key indicator about a leader’s motive is how they handle someone leaving the organization. I have seen organizations where staff members who have served loyally for years are quietly ushered out the back door when they leave the company. Any vestige of their existence is quickly exculpated from the organization, and the self-centered leader is quick to say, “We’ll easily find someone better for that role.”  This approach says to every other team member, “You are just a cog in the machine and if you leave we’ll easily replace you. You don’t really have much to offer us.”

A visionary leader develops people. He or she is affected and saddened when a team member leaves the organization and acknowledges the contribution made publically.  At the same time, a visionary leader LOVES to see a team member succeed even if it means them succeeding in a new organization. They truly want the best for the team members and realize that a leader’s success is directly tied to his or her team.


Takes Credit vs. Gives Credit

A self-centered leader is typically insecure and often full of fear—fear of someone looking better and having the spotlight on them.  We’ve all seen the humorous sketch where someone issues a great idea at the conference table and then the boss takes credit as if it was his idea while everyone looks on bewildered. While not this overt, this happens all the time in the business world.

If a visionary leader is driving a metaphorical car, he or she looks in the mirror when things are going poorly but rolls down the window and when things are going well shouts to the world about their team.  A self-centered leader does the opposite. Check your communication to see when you use “we” and when you use “I.” See how much you can change your language to use “we” the majority of the time.


Says Go vs. Says Let’s Go

A self-centered leader pushes the team forward into risk, while insulating himself or herself from failure. They remain in the safety of the proverbial general’s tent while pushing the troops forward from the trenches into open warfare.

A visionary leader leads the charge, willing to go down with the team if things should go unfortunately bad. In WWII soldiers storming Normandy would fall on barbed wire when injured and allow the soldiers behind them to step on their backs and jump the barriers to make it farther up the beachhead. This is the essence of a true leader.



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From regional manager to international executive with quadruple the pay, Karen Keller’s unique blueprint carefully outlined the step-by-step process for creating high-impact influence and let me know when I was being influenced in a way that didn’t serve me.
Lloyd Moore
Global Director Supplier Quality & Development - Lear Corporation – South Carolina