Picture it: you’re fairly young, impressionable, and gut-wrenchingly ambitious. You’re sitting in the boardroom along with a bunch of other new employees, waiting to meet the CEO.

The tension is palpable as you hear thundering footsteps coming down the corridor.

He blusters in, all expensive cologne, tailored suits, commanding presence, and self-importance. He looks the part, young, tall and good looking but you can see through this false confidence and you are not impressed. 

Then he opens his mouth and he gives you a speech about all of his accomplishments. 

Some of your fellow new employees seem impressed by the bravado, but not you. 

You didn’t know what the problem was but you knew deep in your gut that you just met a LINO.

A Leader in Name Only.

If you’re lucky, LINOs are instantly recognizable. You can tell that, for them, the big draw of leadership has more to do with the company car and the perks of power than building a team or an organization to be proud of.

They’re the ones who talk the talk with no intention of walking the walk. The team leaders who’ll skip out on the team when you’re all staying late to meet a deadline. The presidents who make promises they know they can’t fulfill. They’re the leaders who’ll bend their ethics at the slightest hint of pressure. And they’re the ones who want to keep their power for themselves, who see other talented people as a threat rather than an ally. They’re the ones who offer support only when it suits their agenda.

And they’re toxic — to an organization and to a country.

Some are a little harder to unmask but rest assured, if you can learn how to quickly tell a genuine leader from a LINO, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache. Whether you’re looking for a role model, looking to recruit the best leaders for your organization, or even deciding who gets your next vote don’t let a LINO fool you…

Recognizing a real leader: the 3 key characteristics.

Character.

You’ll never find a job ad calling for an applicant with character, but it’s the one quality that should underpin everything a leader does. Closely linked to integrity, character is what drives every decision you make — it’s the compass that keeps you pointing at your true north.

When things get difficult, when pressures arise, and when you’re tempted to start bending your ethics to hit your targets or meet seemingly impossible challenges, it’s your character that stops you before you make compromises you and your team will regret.

A LINO may start off with a bit of character but as the pressures of leadership grow, they abandon their ethics for the sake of taking the easier path. And when that happens, honesty and fairness fade pretty quickly too.

Heart.

Forget fluffy — heart should be the rock solid core of your leadership strategy. Without it, any organization is destined to fail.

Why?

Because heart is what keeps you going when times are tough. It’s what keeps you going when the failures are coming faster than the successes. And it’s what helps you motivate your team when they’re ready to call it quits.

A LINO will celebrate the wins and nothing else. They only see the top performers and obvious successes — but the team members who’ve made huge progress, the ones who are quietly and confidently setting themselves up to be tomorrow’s top performers will go unnoticed and unappreciated. And then they’ll just go. They’ll leave you for an organization with a genuine leader who will appreciate them and what they offer.

A leader with heart notices and supports all progress, no matter how small. They have faith in their team and know how to turn employees into future leaders. They don’t fear the competition of their talented team, rather they view them as leaders-in-waiting, they foster them, encouraging growth at every step.

Whether you’re winning or losing, a leader with heart keeps showing up, and makes sure their team want to keep showing up too. They know that when they do that, the wins are bound to follow. And when the successes do come, they’ll celebrate each one alongside a strong team that treats their leader with the same loyalty, empathy, and respect they’ve been shown.

Commitment.

Commitment is what happens when heart meets action — and if you want to earn the trust of your team, you’re going to need a lot of heart and action.

LINOS often lie, or stretch the truth to achieve short term success.

A real leader leads the charge when things go wrong and accepts the blame. They’re emailing you for updates. They’re hanging out in your office, asking how they can support you and offering help. When you’re all staying late to troubleshoot, they’re the one ordering the pizza and pitching in with ideas. Because when they started the project, they intended to see if through, no matter how many obstacles get in the way.

So now that you know what a LINO is, and how to spot one, I’m guessing that you’re beginning to recognize quite a few of them, in your sphere, your past, in our political parties…In fact they’re kind of hard to miss based on their actions.

And the reason that they’re so abundant? Because it’s convenient to be a Leader in Name Only. You enjoy the trappings of power, you grab the glory when it’s there, and you skulk off when it isn’t.  

Don’t take the easy path, instead take the right path.

LINO’s nearly always get found out! A LINO will never know the loyalty of great team, the pleasure of watching a protégé climb the ranks behind them, the satisfaction of seeing a tricky project through to completion.

Sure they’re doing a huge disservice to their team and their organization, but they’re also depriving themselves of the deep and genuine pleasure that inevitably comes from leading with character, heart, and commitment.

Al Schauer is the Founder of PointNorth Consulting. He offers coaching and mentoring to aspiring leaders committed to leading with character. His new book on values and doing the right thing in leadership will be available is coming soon. Sign up here to receive updates on how you can purchase his book.