A revolution in leadership

Here is the thesis

As I mentioned in my last blog, I am thinking of a new book. I want to share the thesis of this now book because I want to find interesting case studies and examples and I would love your help in identifying them.

Essentially the idea is that the reason we so often end up with narcissists as leaders is partly because as a society we are addicted to heroes. You can see it as far back as ancient Greece, Rome and Norse gods, who were essentially the heroes who would come and save us.

Most religions, including the monotheistic ones, build on this with the idea of a saviour and today fiction, especially children’s fiction, is packed with heroes who will come and save us.

The implication of allowing heroes to take responsibility for saving us is that we don’t have to do it ourselves.

The other part of this that narcissists will nearly always step up to lead before a more authentic and humble leader, because they have an inflated and often unrealistic idea of their own capabilities. Narcissists as leaders are exciting, they can get a great deal done, they take responsibility away from others and they are ultimately flawed, because their agenda is essentially themselves and they are unable to admit their mistakes and therefore to learn.

More humble and potentially far better leaders, frequently actively step back to allow a narcissist to lead and most frustratingly of all, when a humble leader does step up, they are often treated like narcissists anyway and risk buying in to the narcissistic/hero leadership stereotype.

The consequences of our addiction to narcissist/hero leaders surround us and include virtually all of the main challenges we face as a society.

The solution is a seismic shift in our ideas of leadership and an acceptance of our own responsibility and leadership. Specifically the way that we select, elect and promote leaders in business, politics and other institutions of our society needs to move away from choosing based on those who believe that they can do the job. Our democratic process is almost designed to favour thick skinned, self promoting narcissists with unrealistic self belief over the humble and enquiring who want to build and empower a truly effective team to do the job.

We need to begin teaching great leadership skills to kids at school and at university. So that young people learn to self knowledge and how to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of others, how to assemble an effective and appropriate team, how to coach and empower team mates and how to inspire and align their colleagues around a project, a set of values and an ethos.

The difficulty with finding the case studies is precisely that humble leaders are humble and therefore they don’t often stand out and are much harder to identify as being revolutionary. Therefore, I am asking for your help in identifying leaders and cultures that are humble, authentic and revolutionary. I am interested in any organisational culture, so it could be business or sports or in the public sector. If you know of such an organisation or a piece of research please share it with me and I will do my best to do justice to this important message.

Thank you so much.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

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With love


Neil Crofts
authentic business



About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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6 Responses to A revolution in leadership

  1. Simon says:

    Hi Neil

    Rob Hopkins of Transition Town Totnes would be no finer example of a humble authentic leader from what I have seen. Could expand further but not necessarily through your blog. Can quote other inspirational people but they don’t necessarily head up companies or organizations. Hope this helps. Sx

    • Neil Crofts says:

      Thanks Simon – I would love more detail. Please do e-mail.


    • Steve Tayler says:

      The interviews would be a bit tricky(!) but if you are after historical examples, Clement Atlee is a great one. A man with absolutely no idea how to work a room. Comparing with Winston Churchill’s peacetime record as a leader might be instructive. Also, I have always used Gandhi and [fill in the dictator of your choice] as an illustration between what wisdom and strength can do.

  2. Hi Neil,

    To help me understand the main elements of your book I’m going to summarise what I think they are – feel free to correct me if I’m wrong! πŸ™‚

    1. The past – why our society encourages narcissists leaders and what so wrong about this approach – oh so many case studies to select from!
    2. The benefits of the more humble and authentic leader with some case studies to highlight the benefits
    3. How changes in our education system and society can help the selection of authentic and humble leaders more likely and in time the norm. rather than the exception.

    I would like to mention a word which I believe goes a long way to sum up our past approach to leadership selection – “Conflict” – divide and conquer. This is certainly true in politics and most (all?) large businesses.

    “Collaboration” is the future and I believe is a bed fellow to your authentic and more humble leaders.

    I also believe there are a growing number of people that recognise the benefits of collaborating and I really hope your book helps us understands what steps we can all take to help this happen.

    The biggest challenge I see is that the people in power are the most afraid and (they may feel the most to lose – although in most cases most people can adapt and the ones that can’t are few and far between.

    However this does imply the change will have to come from society as a whole – a peaceful revolution! I really hope your book helps us towards that Tipping Point.

    All the best

    Robin Winnett

    • Neil Crofts says:

      Hi Robin

      Thank you for the summary – that is helpful for me too and yes I think that is broadly the format. My experience from being involved in big culture change programs is that actually the narcissistic leaders are in a tiny minority and that by far the majority of people are decent and honourable. The challenge is getting them to step up and lead. That is the revolution. And – it does not have to happen in a single life time, it may take a couple of generations and that is OK.

      • I’m glad I understood you correctly. I see this as part of a seismic shift which I sense is happening – the majority starting to overwhelm the minority. Not in a bad way I need to add but in a democratic way – the minority must always be heard but not out of significant proportion which if you look at the news sadly is the case at the moment.

        As you say it just may take a couple of generations to get there and actually if that takes that long I’m cool with that – I would just like it to happen quicker! πŸ™‚

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