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Confessions of a Leader

Over the years, I have often found myself in leadership positions. I would love to tell you that I was born with a natural ability to lead, that leadership was my superpower. In my youth, I think I actually believed this about myself. However, as I matured, I realized I possessed no such thing.

The leadership positions I found myself holding were more about my own ambition to rule the world than about my ability to lead. I had no idea how to really lead. No one in their right mind should have let me lead a herd of cats, let alone humans. But I did. And eventually I was exposed. My style was more Mussolini than Lincoln. I gained authority and then used my power to manipulate outcomes. Not all of it was bad. The result was typically positive. It was how I went about achieving outcomes that needed help.

I thought leadership was about doing whatever necessary to produce the desired outcome. A lot of people fell victim to my insatiable drive to win at whatever game I was playing. I used people and things to bring about what I deemed important. This wasn’t leadership. It was something else. As I matured, I learned that leadership is about people, not about using people to get what I want.

Loving people. Sacrificing for people. Developing people. Caring for people. A leader doesn’t lead projects or events. A leader leads people in the context of projects and events. Don’t be like younger Jason. Learn from my mistakes. No matter what, always be people focused. When I became more concerned with the flourishing of others, I finally tasted true flourishing myself.


5 Responses

  1. Adam says:

    Thank you for sharing & being vunerable Jason.

    How did you come to realize the gaps in your leadership style? I would think this came in mutiple ways. Would be curious to know the 2-3 most important or impactful ways.

    • Jason Thompson says:

      Adam, you are correct. Realizing gaps came in multiple ways.
      1. Books on leadership. Specifically, Developing the Leader Within by John Maxwell. I don’t think this is the end all leadership book. Its just the first one I ever read, and first anythings are typically impactful.
      2. Obvious failures. After a while, it became clear that some fundamental things needed to change.
      3. I did not have very many positive examples of leadership in my life. As a result, I learned leadership via negativa. Basically, instead of concentrating on what I should do, the focus turned to what I should not do. This approach may not be ideal, but it served a purpose and had a positive result in my life. If you are interested, you can read more about this approach here: https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/via-negativa-adding-to-your-life-by-subtracting/

      Not sure if this helps, but its what came to mind.

  2. Yvette O'Steen says:


    Thank for writing this honest and vulnerable piece. I’m sure those of us who have held leadership positions in our lives, especially when we were younger, can relate to your journey.


  3. Adam says:

    Great stuff Jason.

    I haven’t seen vunerability modeled in leadership much throughout much of my life. In college I was an RA & worked under an RD for two years who was very open about his shortcomings . I learned much from him. To this day though my default is still to hide flaws or diminish gaps. I am still working to fight against this.

    Appreciate & value you modeling vunerability for us.

  4. Courtney says:

    Great post! It is hard to realize that not being born with these things doesn’t mean that you are a failure, but even better, that there is a great learning/growth opportunity. Still working on this myself 🙂 thanks for sharing, Jason!

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