The Athletic Director was fired from the local university a few days ago, which has created all kinds of conjectures about how it affects the building of a new on-campus stadium.  That has been quite the topic of debate for a couple of years now.

But what caught my attention today was the AD’s quote in the paper: “I wasn’t in it for a popularity contest.  That’s not what leadership is.”

Of course he’s right.  But we’ve all seen how this concept gets abused.

Steve JobsThe fact is that leadership is only leadership if you can engender followership.  The attitude of not caring about “popularity” can cause you to say that you don’t care what other people think.

That’s dangerous.

There are two ways to get results from leadership:  With peoples’ cooperation, and without.  If you’re going it alone, then you need power over people (or around them) in order to make things happen.  If you have boatloads of money or in a position of power, you can do this.

For awhile.

Because it’s funny how karma will come back to bite you.

When you’re getting results through cooperation, they tend to be a lot more sustainable – because you now have the power of the collective to keep things on track.  When you’re going it alone, then you’re constantly battling everyone else’s energy and resources.

But cooperation isn’t popularity.  They’re associated concepts, but if you have the credibility of character, people will help you do things which aren’t exactly popular.  You have to create a shared vision.

I don’t know the AD personally, so I’m not sure about his character traits.  But this sure seems like he’s being taken out of the picture because of his inability to create that shared vision.