No, I don’t think that the “idea” of leadership is a lie. However, what passes for leadership is a lie. As a matter of fact, I think many organizations or institutions don’t truly want leaders in their organization. They want followers and doers.
Gifted leaders possess vision, tenacity, humility, honesty and flexibility. Yes, historical examples of “leaders” that lacked these traits exist, but they merely support my thesis above. Often, these “leaders” were in title only or brought out the worst in their followers. Great historical leaders, while flawed, were far and few in between. Historical leaders include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, and Mohandas Gandhi. These people and their contributions will endure through the ages.
Other names will too, but they are far more complicated and not beloved by all. For example, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, J Edgar Hoover, George Custer, ….. While they all had vision, tenacity and flexibility they lacked honesty and humility. They often boldly charged into battle, but often for personal glory missing the greater opportunity because of concern for their own legacy.
Too many contemporary “leaders” seek to build their legacy versus building lasting institutions. They seek to secure their spot in recorded history, but lack the humility and honesty to contribute to enduring institutions. Few will rise to the historical success of Alexander the Great. There just isn’t enough of the known world left to conquer. However, it is totally within our grasp to contribute to something greater than ourselves. True leadership does not always involve creating lasting institutions, monuments or even a side note in the historical record. Striving to exemplify leadership traits to your children and those that admire you may be the lasting legacy you seek. Legacies might be akin to karma. You may not always have the satisfaction of witnessing karma in action, but be assured that like karma, your legacy will live on in the people you impact and engage along the way.
Strive to emulate the leadership traits of those that did not seek immortality, but instead sought out the opportunities to contribute to institutions greater than themselves.