Etienne Marais in 5 minutes

What's this obsession with leadership?

A question has taken up my thoughts for some time lately and it’s the question of leadership, what it means and why it’s so necessary. I hear a lot of people saying that the collective problems of the world would be solved:

“If only we had a good leader” ~ Mostly Everyone

Apparently this is hard. Especially in software teams. It seems to be plaquing project momentum and stable releases and relationships.

If you look at the success requirements for candidates they all require “Leadership Qualities”. “Qualities” that seemingly anyone with an afternoon and a Udemy subscription can acquire. So there must be a difference between a leader and a really good leader.

Forbes says there are 10 good leadership qualities

Why rather

I’m not going to elaborate on the qualities of a good leader because that article summarizes it well. The point I want to get to is maybe not What the obsession is with leadership but Why this obsession with leadership.

Why do we need to have leaders to do good things everyday? Why do we need a title like “Team Lead” or “Manager” or “Evangelist” to constantly remind us to do the right thing. Why does anybody have to remind us to care about collective success? In contrast with that, why does it happen that a leader need to take the blame if anything goes wrong or someone in the team messes up?

Because I think we are using leaders as a crutch for our shortcomings and laziness. We blame the first thing that stand out and that is usually the person in the foreground.


Rosana Maria Nedelciu wrote a beautiful piece about givers, supporters and believers and what struck me was that the world seems to focus on what’s in the foreground all the time.

I wish our society would become more „obsessed” with grooming Givers, who inspire us with their modesty and involvement. Believers, who support those around them with an open heart. Creatives, who have this wonderful ability to make a Leader’s Vision bloom. I wish our society would stop fuelling this hierarchy in which being a Leader – and leading others – is the highest phase in one’s personal or professional evolution. This hierarchy that says „If you’re not a leader, then you’re not at the peak of your career and you don’t have the right to feel fulfilled”. Instead of creating this vertical success ladder, I wish we would focus on placing Leadership on a horizontal interdependence with other wonderful abilities.

You don’t need a leader to be leaderly. You don’t need a title to care deeply about collective success. You can do the right thing everytime without asking for permission from anybody.