I just read an article by a leadership guru on how to tell if you’re a leader and don’t know it. Apparently if you have a pulse you’re a leader. My dog met two of the 10 conditions described in this stunning example of ludicrous clickbait.

This self-proclaimed expert has never actually managed, run, or led anything or anyone in her life. She makes a living blowing smoke up people’s behinds that fill their heads with inspirational feel-good fluff. No doubt she’s very big on Twitter.

Sadly, this shyster is a typical perpetrator of a popular fad that has millions chasing a utopian dream that simply doesn’t exist.

Let me be straight with you, since apparently nobody else will. For the vast majority of you, trying desperately to feel like a leader is no different than getting high on a drug. Maybe it feels good for a few minutes, then you’re back to reality again.

Here’s the thing. Leader is not a job. It’s not a title. It’s not even very descriptive. It’s simply a desired skill-set for certain job functions. If authority or influence over others is not in your job description, then as far as the business world is concerned, you’re an employee or self-employed. No more, no less.

Said another way, if your work does not include a clear line of responsibility for employees, vendors, partners, products, or programs, you’re not a leader. Even if it does, that does not make you a good leader. As with any skill-set, some are good, some are terrible and everyone else is somewhere in between.

Some make a distinction about servant leaders, but that’s a distinction without a difference since all executives and business leaders serve others. They directly or indirectly serve bosses, boards of directors and any number of stakeholders, so the term is meaningless.

Real leaders think of themselves in terms of their ability to do what they’re paid to do. To that extent, leadership skills are no different than any other capability needed to do their jobs effectively. No different than being smart, hard working, or tenacious. No different than having market or functional expertise.

More: Calling BS on the Leadership Business

Let me explain why it’s so important for you to get all this leadership nonsense out of your head. First of all, you’re wasting your precious time. You only get one shot at life. And while you’re reading, posting, tweeting, and attending seminars about this leadership nonsense, life is passing you by.

Not only is life passing you by, so are opportunities. There is a cost associated with opportunities you miss out on while you’re otherwise engaged in mindless distraction, chasing your tail, or doing whatever it is that so many of you do when you should be doing what really matters.

In case you’re wondering what that is – what matters – it’s simple, really. Get out in the world and work. Gain exposure. Meet people. Find what you love or at least enjoy doing, hopefully something that’s in demand and in short supply. Work your tail off. Strive to be the best. Accomplish great things. Rinse and repeat.

Some day you’ll wake up, look back over your life’s work, and realize that what you did mattered. You made a real difference in the world. And you’ll feel good about it. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. You’ll be fulfilled. And you’ll be happy.

But none of that will happen if you insist on wasting your life trying to feel good about yourself when you haven’t really accomplished anything yet. The sad irony is, all those leadership experts are in exactly the same boat you’re in. I honestly don’t know who to feel more sorry for, them or the fools who follow them.

For more on what it takes to become a Real Leader in today’s highly competitive business world, get Steve’s breakthrough book, Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur.

Image credit Karl Wright via Flickr

A version of this originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

  • SamHanson

    “My dog met 2 of the 10 conditions” – classic.

  • BarbaraKimmel

    My dog met 3 of the conditions. BTW, I think I know exactly who that shyster is that you are writing about. If it’s the same shyster (there are several in the “leadership guru” space), she has done nothing that she claims to have done and most of her writing is plagiarized.

  • Brad

    My dog met 6 including being responsible even when he didn’t want to be….I know I didn’t leave that stain on the carpet. Then again, he has no thumbs and needs me to operate the door so I guess that one’s on me.

    • LeviMeow

      I love that too!

  • Craig Marek

    Great article Steve. In opposition I do think that understanding Servant Leadership does matter. You are right, we always serve someone when we lead, so why not do it right? I believe it will stand up when the other theories fail, so it has some meaning. It is the closest application to getting out, working and meeting people.