Beware of these 5 Fake Leadership Costumes

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Updated from July 18, 2013 post

October 31st is Halloween in many parts of the world. In recognition of the day’s traditions, I’m revisiting the importance of leaders avoiding wearing certain “costumes”…


Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a hilarious routine about being given a Superman costume for a Halloween present.

Reading the box, he was surprised to read the disclaimer, “Do not attempt to fly!”

“I love the idea of the kid who’s stupid enough to think he really is Superman,” Seinfeld muses, “but smart enough to check that box before he goes off the roof.”


Thinking that by merely putting on the right costume it could somehow magically transform you.

And yet some people think that’s how leadership works.

They’ve seen the costume and believe that if they simply put it on then they too will be magically transformed into a leader.

These fake leadership costumes come in a variety of forms. Here are five of the most common:

1.   Bossy-ness

Simply barking out orders doesn’t make you a leader.

Usually it just makes a person a bit obnoxious.

2.   Busy-ness

This is a common one. Some people actually believe that by darting frantically from one disjointed activity to another, it must mean they are a great leader.

Often it means only that the person is either unfocused or a poor time manager.

 3.   Distracted-ness

This costume is easy to spot.

It’s worn by the person who keeps their smart phone on ready alert, even when they’re in a conversation with you. At the slightest vibration their attention is immediately diverted away from you and onto their device.

That’s no indication of leadership. Really, it’s just poor manners.

 4.   Crankiness

This one is a personal favorite. Some people actually believe that simply by taking on a frustrated disposition it indicates that they must be carrying huge leadership responsibilities.

Actually, it just means they’re not much fun to be around.

 5.   Talky-ness

While it’s true that effective leaders are good communicators, some people get this one all wrong. They believe that they can be a leader simply by being able to talk…and talk…and talk…and talk…and talk…

But anyone can talk. Leaders, on the other hand, communicate. Huge difference.

Bill Hybels has provided what I believe is one of the best definitions of leadership ever given. “Leadership,” he explains, “is being able to move people from here to there.”

In other words, the measurement of leadership is, “Are you taking people with you to a goal?”

If not, you might just be wearing the costume.

What other forms of leadership costumes have you seen?


the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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