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Extreme Leadership?

The word, “extreme,” started to become popular with Gen-Xers and was most commonly used, initially, in the phrase “extreme sports.” Since then, “extreme,” has been used in commercials to describe everything from cars to clothing to food. I don’t want a cheeseburger anymore-cheeseburgers are for wimps-give me an extreme cheeseburger.

So, you could say that my using the phrase, “Extreme Leadership” is a trendy attempt to distinguish myself from the gazillion other leadership authors and advocates on the planet. And, frankly, your accusation wouldn’t be entirely unwarranted. But if you want to accuse me of anything, accuse me of using a redundant phrase: leadership is-by its very nature-already extreme.

Real leaders are already embroiled in extreme acts: they’re taking us to places we’ve never been, turning nothing into something, taking something good and turning it into something great, helping us to grow as human beings and changing the pieces of the world that they touch. Or the whole world, for that matter. The Extreme Leader is, therefore, the only true and authentic leader.

But here’s the problem: many people who call themselves leaders are only posing. They’re wearing the label or accepting the title without putting their skin in the game. Extreme (real) Leadership takes a personal commitment and a significant, personal choice. As my friend and colleague, Terry Pearce, said in an article in the San Francisco Examiner:

“There are many people who think they want to be matadors, only to find themselves in the ring with two thousand pounds of bull bearing down on them, and then discover that what they really wanted was to wear tight pants and hear the crowd roar.”

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