Richard Egger: «The Real Leaders Can't Be Bought»

Richard Egger

Richard Egger

Managers on average are putting more time and effort into protecting their power and furthering their status than on performing their duties. In this situation, they ought to turn around and reconsider their motivations, Richard Egger, a leadership expert, writes in an essay for finews.first.


finews.first is a forum for renowned authors specialized on economic and financial topics. The texts are published in both German and English. The contributions appear in cooperation with Pictet, the Geneva-based private bank. The publishers of finews.ch are responsible for the selection.


Recep Erdogan, Vladimir Putin or Victor Orban: leaders holding tightly onto power at all costs are aplenty. They don't want to lead, they want to rule and they are ready to sacrifice all they once fought for: democratic procedures, the well-being of their fellow citizens and sometimes even their lives.

You are excused to believe that this isn't taking place here. But we also have power-hungry leaders, not only in politics, but also in business. Perhaps you know some yourself.

The seduction of people and populism won't get you into management positions in Switzerland. In our country, people make it into management because of what they are capable of. The client adviser is doing a good job and thus makes his claim to become a team leader, the accountant does her work diligently and soon is being made the head of accounting.

«Some take comfort in the rewards which go along with being a manager»

But, as soon as management comes into play, so does power. It involves asserting yourself against the will of others. The team leader in the back office maybe not as frequently. But the higher you get, the more influential the position of the manager, the more decisions he has to take that won't be to everybody's liking.

The manager can't stop making himself unpopular and attracting criticism by the staff.

Some take comfort in the rewards which go along with being a manager: admiration, symbols of status and more money. Both – the rejection as well as the privileges – have the power to seduce. Managers tend to subordinate their management duties to the maintenance of power or the size of status and remuneration.

«Such friends are rare, not least in the thin air of the upper management echelons»

Real leaders however can't to be bought with the wrong incentives and distracted of their proper goals. They manage their duties with ease because they know why they chose them. Perhaps they aspire to achieve something or to take responsibility for a big project. In any case, they have a very personal answer to the question: why do I lead?

Real leadership therefore requires you to think about your motivations, to take responsibility and about the values upon which they are based. Real leaders have a concept ready for managing.

How do you get there? There are three ways. Some have real friends, more than just drinking or golfing partners. They can be relied upon in difficult management situations. They are ready-made sparring partners, helping you to develop as a person and leader. Such friends are rare, not least in the thin air of the upper management echelons.

«This is the place to reconfirm your motives and understanding of leadership»

A coach can be of use too, acting as a supportive yet critical companion for a specific period of time. They are not mere firemen to help when there's a fire to extinguish, but to accompany a manager to become a true leadership personality.

Last but not least there are the seminars for leaders that don't simply focus on teaching skills and management techniques, but put the person in the center. It is about getting to better know yourself, to improve on your strengths and weaken your weaknesses. This is the place to reconfirm your motives and understanding of leadership.

Exchanging with supportive, yet critical partners and authoritative personalities helps your develop clarity and sovereignty in managing your duties. It helps against falling for the allure of power and incentives not relevant for the duties. Instead, he or she will concentrate on the duty for which they have been selected: managing people to reach the targets.


Richard Egger is a leadership trainer, consultant and businessman. Together with Paul A. Truttman he is teaching leadership at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.


Previous contributions: Rudi BogniAdriano B. Lucatelli, Peter Kurer (twice), Oliver Berger, Rolf Banz, Dieter Ruloff, Samuel Gerber, Werner VogtWalter Wittmann, Albert Steck, Alfred Mettler, Peter Hody, Robert Holzach, Thorsten Polleit, Craig Murray, David Zollinger, Arthur Bolliger and Beat Kappeler, Chris RoweStefan Gerlach, Marc Lussy, Samuel Gerber, Nuno Fernandes, Thomas Fedier, Claude Baumann and Beat Wittmann

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