How Bad Leaders Define Success

How Bad Leaders Define Success

John Eades 11/08/2018 5

Everyday she was decked to the nines in designer clothes, the most fashionable shoes, expensive jewelry, and arrived in her 7 Series (which she parked in 2 whole spaces). The way she defined her success was obvious, not just because of her focus on material possessions, but also in the way her actions and words came across to others. She constantly talked about business earnings and her actions backed it up. She let nothing stop her from increasing those numbers -- including cutting people who had helped her produce revenue (and who had her best interest at heart). What was more shocking was that her company wasn’t at risk financially. Her actions were the complete opposite of what famous American activist Marian Wright Edleman wrote in her book “The Measure of Success”:

“Never work just for money or for power. They won't save your soul or help you sleep at night.” 

When you boil it down it’s simple, bad leaders define success by the money they make or the power they have over others. I think if we were honest with ourselves, we are all guilty of being driven by these things at different points in our lives. The challenge we all face is looking past the fulfillment of our ego and think critically about about how we should define success? Here are a few ways great leaders define success:

The Positive Impact They Have on Others

Kat Cole the President of Focus Brands is a true inspiration to the world of leadership. She speaks in detail about how one of the most important things she does is positively impacting the lives of people who work or come into contact with her. Cole is genuinely interested and focused on her people regardless of outcome or results. 

There are no shortcuts to having a positive impact on others, but it’s important to note it's not even possible until you have good foundational relationships with people you lead that are based on love and discipline. On this week’s episode of the Follow My Lead podcast, Author Matt Tenney said, “Deep down in our core, we know what makes life really rich is helping others. If you ask almost anyone about some of their most memorable experiences, it’s times they were doing things to be of service to others.” Being of service to others doesn’t always mean just giving people whatever they want. It means finding that balance between love and discipline in order to treat your team in ways that contribute to their long-term success and well-being.

The Amount of Leaders they Create

Author Tom Peters said, “True Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” On one hand, it’s such a simple concept. On the other hand there isn't a leader in the world that would say they have mastered it. To successfully create more leaders you must have an open mind, a small ego, a humble heart, and confidence that more talent is right around the corner. A simple question you can ask yourself is, “Am I developing my people to be able to take my job, or better yet, surpass me?” The truth of the matter is, if your helping develop people in this way, you will receive more opportunities to lead others in the long run. 

The Success of Their Customers 

This is an often overlooked area. You could look at SAP CEO Bill McDermott or Sealed Air CEO Jerome Peribere and see how committed they are to helping their customer gain a competitive advantage. To these leaders it’s not just using the corporate buzzword of “customer success” but they actually measure their impact based on how their customers perform. The beauty of this approach is the more the leaders at the top of organizations care about the customer, the more every employee cares about customers. Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz said something inspiring, “Exceed the expectation of your people, so they exceed the expectation of your customers.” He is spot on and great leaders know customers don’t exceed expectations without team members providing exceptional support and customer service. 

The Relationships in Their Personal Lives

I learned a lesson from Dale Partridge that will stick with me forever, “Success at work without success at home, isn’t success at all.” There are countless examples of leaders throughout history that on the outside appear to be amazing leaders but the relationships in their own families are awful. Their relationships are surface level and have little to no substance. Conversely really good leaders also measure their success by the quality of their relationship with their spouse, kids, parents, and friends. They know if they neglect their responsibilities at home, for their responsibilities at the office they simply aren’t doing their job. 

Those are just a few ways great leaders define success. If money and power come as a result of their accomplishments in these areas, all the better. 

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  • Dean Prinston

    This is one of the best leadership articles that I have read.

  • Steve Robinson

    Great and inspiring article.

  • Hannah McMichael

    A good leader is like a good father of a family.

  • Karl Hamill

    There is a difference between a person of authority and a leader.

  • Chelsea Boyd

    Simple message delivered brilliantly.

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on, LinkedIn Pulse,,, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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