Great Leaders are Real

Gerwig 2016-04-11

Do you like theater? Broadway? West End? Off Broadway? Other? Do you enjoy theater? I do. And though I’ve seen shows in New York, in London, and in Asia, it has been over 30 years since I saw a show on Broadway. That’s a long time. There are shows and there are venues, but there’s nothing like dinner and a show on Broadway. It’s an iconic experience.

This last weekend, I took my wife and daughter to a matinee in New York City. We went to the Majestic Theater to see The Phantom of the Opera. It was great! I drove into Manhattan and we walked to the theater. On the way, we stopped for a bagel (yes, cream cheese and lox – delicious!!!). And while the weather in the Big Apple was overcast, cool and rainy, the show was amazing! We had a great time. Our seats were good, we had a nice lunch (dinner afterwards) and the performers were truly world-class.

If I were to be an aspiring actor, singer, Broadway performer or thespian, I would seek out one (or more) of these performers and ask for help. I’d ask them to be my coach, my mentor, my teacher. Why? They’ve done it. They know how to act. They know how to sing. They know how to entertain. And they’re truly world-class. If I wanted to perform on Broadway, I’d seek out someone who had performed on Broadway or had coached someone who had performed on Broadway.

There are many who perform and many who coach, but few who have actually performed on Broadway, few who have coached Broadway performers. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t seek out a performer who knew “about” Broadway. I wouldn’t seek out a coach whose student students had “almost” made it. No, I’d seek out someone who had “walked the talk,” someone who had “been there and done that.” Why waste my time? Life if short. There are those who “do” and those who “talk” about doing.

Ironically, a few weeks ago, I had an opposite experience. I ran into a man who espoused to be a “leader” but didn’t demonstrate leader qualities. Unlike the Broadway performers who backed up their words with actions, this “leader” was a facade, a hypocrite, someone who pretended to be a leader, but was anything but.

This “leader” was an author, a man who had held positions of formal leadership and a man who, on the surface, was a leadership “expert.” He spoke at a conference I attended and, mostly, sounded good though I must admit there was something in my gut that noticed something was “off.”

During the break, I sought him out. I wanted to discuss a couple points with him and ask about a couple of the books he’d brought with him for sale. The interaction was a disaster. He was looking around. He was distracted. He didn’t remember my name after our introduction. He didn’t make eye contact with me. His tone of voice was rude. He seemed “put off” that I was asking a couple questions about one of his books. I should mention that there was no one else in line. I wasn’t holding up other patrons. I wasn’t asking for a freebie. I was asking a quick question about one of his books I wanted to buy. Overall, the interchange was a “terrible.” He came across as rude and boorish. I didn’t buy a book. He lost a sale and I came away disappointed.

Based on this one interaction, it’s not fair for me to say this renowned “leader “ was a flop. It’s not fair for me to judge him on one interaction. But it did cause me to think. And it reminded me that there are those who “do” and those who “don’t do.” There are those who have walked in the trenches and been successful and those who haven’t. Those who sound good but haven’t “done it” and those who have (regardless of how they sound).

And while I can’t speak for you, I’ll always follow (read and listen to) those who have “been there and done that.” I’ll always follow those who “walk the talk.” I’ll always seek out those who have practical experience. And I’ll avoid those who merely “talk” about it, those who have academic or theoretical experience only.

I’d rather have a few words from someone who has been in the trenches and emerged successfully than a dissertation from someone who has only experienced “it” from afar, from someone who know “about” it, but hasn’t experienced it, first-hand.

One thing I know for certain, I won’t buy a book from a rude author. I won’t buy a book from someone who won’t make eye contact with me. I won’t buy a book from someone who looks down me. Will you? Remember, people are watching. People are watching what you do. They’re accessing and grading your credibility. Are you real? Are you trustworthy? Are you authentic?

It’s been five years since my two friends, brothers, and colleagues (Dr. Scott Yorkovich and Dr. Greg Waddell) and I started writing this weekly leadership blog. We do it for fun. We do it to share ideas. We do it because “it’s in us.” But it puts us in the limelight. Those I lead, those I manage, those I serve and those I “do life with” can call me out. I’m going public. If I don’t walk the talk, others will see it. If I’m hypocritically, there’s no hiding. If my weekly “words” (via this blog) don’t match up, others will (and should) call me out.

And while I’m not perfect, I’m up to the challenge. I’m willing to take the chance, willing to say there’s congruence between my walk and my talk.

How about you? Are you a credible coach and performer like the Broadway performers I saw recently on Broadway? Or are you a phony, a hypocrite? Are you willing to be in the limelight and be evaluated? Do you walk the talk or are you a whitewashed tomb? The choice is yours.

Remember, great leaders are real. Are you?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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One thought on “Great Leaders are Real

  1. My parents were very, very strong leaders! We were taught to lead. At least my sisters and I were taught to lead. My brother came 8 years later and we led him! It gave us the courage to tackle anything. If we fell…..we dusted ourselves off and tried again! We taught our children. They are now teaching our grandchildren. Whether we lead others, our selves, or organizations…….God is our leader! I am thankful that I am not leading anyone thru the desert!! God bless!

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