Leadership: Tagged for a Leadership Challenge

I was recently asked to participate in a challenge called “Why Most Leadership Sucks, Including Yours…by John W. McKenna. I wasn’t thrilled with his languaging and told him as much on a previous Fast Company post to which he replied “I could do better”.

I was recently asked to participate in a challenge called “Why Most Leadership Sucks, Including Yours…by John W. McKenna. I wasn’t thrilled with his languaging and told him as much on a previous Fast Company post to which he replied “I could do better”.


”I could do better” Can’t we all? In some way shape or form, even if it’s just subtle, we can do better, different, opposite, or whatever is needed when we’re in a position of leadership as that’s what leadership is. It’s not independent of the organizational culture nor is it independent of context. As it’s the anniversary of 9/11 it’s apropos for me to use the following as an example:

In the book Leadership by Rudolph W. Giuliani and Ken Kurson, “Much of a leader’s approach must be formed from the raw material of his own life. There is no substitute for personal experience when dealing with a problem. This is particularly true in a crisis, when there is less time to develop ideas and plans. When Rudolph Giuliani rushed to the scene of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, he had already learned the value of seeing things with his own eyes and of setting an example. Those were lessons that had come out of the experiences of his life.”

I’m not here to dictate whether or not how he responded measured up, met expectations etc. I’m saying we operate from a different perspective depending on circumstance and context not to mention pressures, energy levels and all the rest. One cannot use the same style of leadership every day; it changes moment to moment as need be.

We can always ‘do better’ as leaders in our fields of practice, in life, with family, friends, and to set an example to those who don’t know us and have never met us but who will be touched by the ripple effect of what we do regardless of whether or not there’s a personal connection.

As an executive and political leadership coach, I grow people for a living based on where they want to go and who they want to be. They need to define what that looks like for them. There are many factors that determine the impact of our leadership. It not only encompasses vision but personality, languaging, energy and connection.


We have a unique capacity to shape our lives. Leaders have a unique capacity to shape other’s lives.

Leaders are not leaders without followers. We all have the choice to follow bad leaders, or not. Someone who might be a great leader to one might not be to another. It’s all personal preference and personal choice. For some it’s easier to let others shape our destiny for in doing that, when we fail, we can place blame.

Under the surface, where the key dynamics of a personality lies is the person that builds pieces of our world as we know it, one who dreams and translates that dream into a vision we can all wrap our heads around. Those leaders are risk takers because to not go after their dreams isn’t even a remote possibility. Their energy, passion is a never-ending spring that never dries up, as with each person who comes on board and wants to ‘live it too’ that passion continues to feed the human spirit.

Before we decide what is good or bad leadership, I think we have to define it on two fronts, ourselves and how we look at the way we lead and for others and who we might want to follow. As for me. I accept complete responsibility for everything I think, say, feel, and do. I am not afraid of making mistakes or of taking reasonable risks. I am a life-long student. I am always ready to learn, and I know growth takes sustained effort. Through that, I own and celebrate my successes and failures as they are both instrumental in that growth. Anything else for me would be existing through life, not ‘living’ it. Each risk allows us to invent our futures. We all lead the way in our own lives with each choice we make…good and bad.

How do you define great leadership as it applies to you and others? Are both definitions the same or do you look at how you lead differently than the leadership of the person you would and want to follow? How might that affect your view of what an ideal leader should look like or not look like?

Donna Karlin • Executive and Political Shadow Coach™ • Ottawa, Canada • •

About the author

Donna Karlin CEC, Diplomate IABMCP and founder and principal of A Better Perspective® & The School of Shadow Coaching, has pioneered the specialized practice of Shadow Coaching® with global political, government, business and senior organizational leaders in the public and private sectors. Donna capitalizes on almost 30 years of experience in coaching, consulting and training to help clients and their organizations evolve into their level of excellence.