Patrick Lencioni is an author of various books on business and team management and one of his basic tenets is that “the best leader in the world is probably relatively obscure.” This concept seems to counter the conventional understanding of what leadership is which equates it with a leader obtaining a massive international profile gained through both traditional media and online means. However, true leadership is essentially incoherent with fame, and in order to be a truly great leader you have to shun the limelight and adopt a very rare asset in today’s business world: Humility.

A new light on leadership itself

According to Lencioni, the best leader in the world right now is likely running a small or a medium sized company in a small city somewhere. The question which would seem to arise would be if they’re such a superlative leader, why hasn’t their organization grown to worldwide notoriety? The answer is not one that negates the value of the leader, but one that sheds a completely new light onto the very essence of leadership itself.

Disdain for blind adulation

The relative obscurity of that great leader is not because they perform their tasks with mediocrity, but because they have a profound disdain for blind adulation and unnecessary attention. They focus on what is important in their leadership role, which is to motivate the people who work under them, the clientele who they serve, and their own families. They understand that the goal of a leader is to balance all of those factors in order to fulfill the organization’s role in the specific niche that they are in. The great leader comprehends instinctively that there is little point in growth for the sake of growing. Specialization, commitment and an eternal dedication to exquisitely catering to the needs of all the stakeholders is preferable to jumping to an IPO and taking on thousands or even millions of shareholders who will be thoroughly detached and unengaged with the aspirations of the organization.

Motivation to a common goal

This “quality not quantity” equation is obvious when you stop and think about it. The investor who has placed a significant share of their funds into an organization where they have a direct personal relationship with the management and can rest assured that their input is taken into consideration is going to be far more engaged in the condition and future of the business than one who has tossed a few bucks into a stock and sees it as little more than a minor component in their diversified portfolio. The leader’s role is to engage the people around them and motivate them to seek a common goal, not just to pile up 40 foot FCL container loads of $100 bills.

Fame is the least desirable aspect

The fundamental manifestations of fame and notoriety are actually deleterious to great leadership. Unlike most people in today’s world, great leaders understand that fame is actually the least desirable aspect of being a leader. There are ample reasons for that conclusion:

  • Fame destroys your home life. There are precious few famous people who manage to maintain a stable family life, and the ones that do usually accomplish that goal by keeping their family essentially in xenophobic hermitage. Leaders know that their effectiveness as a leader and a human being starts with tranquility on the home front.
  • Fame devours your time & energy. You will spend so much time “being famous” that you will neglect the critical tasks which your leadership role is based upon. Giving endless interviews, flying all over the world to give speeches, and engaging in the endless demands of your entourage will leave you little time to lead your organization.
  • Fame corrupts. We only have to go as far as any gossip website to see the countless instances of famous people who self-destruct in the public limelight. If Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston had been burger flippers who sang in small local clubs on the weekends, they’d likely still be alive… and happy.

You should always remember that making a meaningful and tangible difference in your leadership requires humility and focus.