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Counterfeit Leadership

6 min read

Where does the buck stop?

Counterfeit leaders are masters at playing politics, finger pointing, and finding others to shoulder the blame. They measure every action by protecting their turf and promoting their self-interests.


On the other hand, real leaders do what’s right— period. Real leaders recognize that their stance represents something much larger than the whim of any one individual –– as such, they put their egos and self-interests on hold. Real leaders do what’s in the organization’s best interest rather than trying to win a popularity contest, playing politics, or advancing their own private agenda.

Do you value integrity?

Counterfeit leaders turn a blind eye to unethical behavior. To them, it’s not how you play the game; it’s all about winning. They believe that stepping on employees, squeezing vendors, or cheating a customer to make a quick sale is just the cost of doing business. In politics, running dishonest advertising against an opponent, sneaking through legislation in the wee hours, or sheltering a colleague from ethics charges is fair game. Counterfeit leaders believe the end always justifies the means—anything goes (as long as you hit your numbers or score points for your political party).


On the contrary, real leaders operate with integrity at all times; they are passionate about protecting their personal integrity and the reputation of their organization. They understand that trust takes a long time to develop, but can be lost in the blink of an eye. Real leaders know that instilling a strong culture and promoting ethical core values are instrumental for success. In fact, in today’s turbulent times, everything is subject to change except an organization’s core values.

Are you building a legacy for others to follow?

Counterfeit leaders focus all of their efforts on short-term success— at the expense of the organization’s future. Shortsighted leaders skimp on R&D, cut spending on capital equipment and new infrastructure, apply Band-Aids to serious problems, fail to develop key employees, and ram through major legislation without bipartisan support.

Counterfeit leaders don’t care about the future because they won’t be rewarded for those efforts. Instead, the future takes a back seat to hitting the next quarterly bonus or winning the next election.


On the other hand, real leaders maintain a balance between short-term performance and building a better future. Real leaders know that short-term wins enable leaders to build trust, instill confidence, and maintain momentum. This provides them with enough credibility to make strategic investments and tackle the long-term challenges that ensure success. Real leaders understand the importance of motivating others to accept personal sacrifice to benefit others.

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