A Leader’s Most Important Task

Richard Shrapnel's 'A Leader’s Most Important Task'.

Leadership can be simple and empowering or overwhelming and confusing. Today, there are so many directives on what a leader should do and how they should act that it’s easy to be confused. To be effective and cut through all the noise, you need to keep it simple. Simple means focusing on one task and that is enabling others to be successful.


Active Knowledge Question:

How do you empower your business to achieve its greatest potential?


Ego vs. Humility

Ask someone to name a few successful business people and you will likely get the same few names. These are the leaders who are always appearing in the media, many times promoting good causes but sometimes maybe just promoting themselves. Because isn’t having an ego, and being a bit arrogant, a necessary trait to make it to the top of the business world?

Of course, what we are not seeing is all those leaders who are not always in the media as they are simply getting on with their job of making their businesses great.

So, in leadership how important is ego? And in the battle between ego and humility who should win out for the sake of the business? Arrogance is of course not always a sign of ego and, at times, can reflect self-confidence that is simply being misread.

If we jump back in time, before we had the internet, social media and all the noise that it creates, we can readily see what our elders thought of ego.

The oldest record of Indian culture, the Vedas (likely composed between 1500 and 700 BC), notes that ego (asmita) is one of the four obstacles that prevent us recognising things as they really are, and that humility is a necessity for inner growth.

If we delve into another ancient culture, that of the Chinese (again, around the period 1100 BC) and translate their wisdom into modern leadership language, we would see CEOs being encouraged to be benevolent, righteous, loyal, sincere, courageous and wise. Personal emotions are not permitted in leadership and excessive pleasures are unforgivable. Again, not much space is given for ego in leaders but there is certainly a requirement for humbleness.

In both instances, ego is seen as a sign of weakness in leadership and certainly not a trait to be pursued or encouraged. Of course, ego is also an expression of self-interest, which is the antithesis of success.

Ego is seen as overconfidence and a desire to prove to others that your way is right. Humility is seen as a willingness to engage others in their thoughts and to search out answers. It does not lack in ambition but reflects a willingness to listen. In a world that is constantly changing and in which big unknowns always exist, which do you believe is a better trait in a leader? I would think humility, without a doubt


Success Is Not A Solo Journey

There are even more compelling reasons why humility is a critical trait to underpin success.

In an earlier article, ‘Success Should Never Be A Solo Journey’, I spoke to the need for any individual who wants to achieve their greatest potential to seek out support in their journey. Well, in the instance of a business leader, the need to rely upon others for success is an absolute necessity. A leader cannot make a business a success through their own efforts.

A business is no more than the sum of all those who work within and with it. It is these combined talents and energies that will allow the business to succeed. The role of a leader is to draw the greatest potential out of each and every person in the business. It is their most important task.

Under the centripetal leadership model that underpins great businesses, every leader must ensure that they, in turn, appoint other worthy leaders at the far reach of their influence. Under this model, worthy leadership can pervade every aspect of a business. This allows the greatest potential of every person to be the goal of every leader throughout a business.

Do this and you will find achievement peculating throughout your business, and suddenly the impossible becomes just another day of success.

Be warned, however, that you must ensure that the right attitude and definition of success exists in your business. Success is not about wealth, power or position. This definition of success is limited and exclusive – and quite simply wrong. Success for any individual is about continual growth and achieving their fullest personal potential.

Of course, the challenge to success is self-interest. Ego cannot allow others to be successful for it to cannot exist in such an environment. Humility, however, feeds on others growing and developing successful lives.


The Effect Of Successful People

Successful people will exist at every level of your business and they can have a profound effect on your business. Being successful is not about being on top of the hierarchical pyramid but who you are as a person. Successful people will become leaders within your business whether you formally appoint them or not.

Successful people:

  • Do not rely on others for their identity.
  • Are open, confident and provide leadership.
  • Understand the power of words, images and stories and apply them accordingly.
  • Adopt habits to reinforce their success.
  • Grow and connect with other successful people.
  • Give thanks and give to others.
  • Are confident but never prideful or egotistical.

The vital role they play in your business is to:

  • Develop people’s ability to be successful.
  • Connect people with purpose and goals.
  • Lead by example.
  • Create a culture of success.


The more successful people you are able to grow in your business, the more success there will be, and compounding will take hold. The potential of more and more people will be brought to life and suddenly all the challenges you face as a leader, and as a business, will seem to disappear as they will be met by the many and not you alone. As a leader, your single most important task is to bring success to everyone else in your business. 


 An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel