What Is Leadership?

An excerpt from the book “The Morning After” by Maxim Behar


Leadership outside business is practically the same as leadership in business

because the same principle applies across the board: “If you are a leader, you must be a leader in everything.” There is no way to be a leader in the office and a loser at home. The opposite is also true; there is no way of being a leader in your family, and when you go to the office, you are shy and unable to cope. The past 40 years of my life have been marked by my attempts to comprehend leadership:

What is the difference between leadership and management? How do you become a good leader?

Can one even become a leader, or are leaders naturally born?…

Those attempts on my part started long before Prince Charles founded the Business Leaders Forum in Bulgaria, which is a part of the Business Leaders Forum of the Prince of Wales. By the way, there is a funny story I told during my many visits to London by people from his office. Queen Elizabeth II was on tour in Northern England, and she — countered several ladies with large hats by chance, who told her, “Your Majesty, we are part of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum!” She did not hear them very well because she replied,

“Oh, I didn’t know Charlie had a Business Ladies Forum.”

At the beginning of 2001, Bill Drysdale, back then the head of the Bulgarian office of international consultancy company KPMG and later an adviser of Bulgaria’s former monarch Simeon Saxe-Coburg during the time the latter was the Prime Minister of Bulgaria (2001–2005), came to my office and said, “Max, you must run for president of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum in my stead. I’m going back to Scotland.” I was surprised because that sounded like nonsense. “Bill, you must be joking!” I told him. “Who am I?” I had three or four employees at M3 Communications Group, Inc. He looked at me rather bewildered and said, “It doesn’t matter how many people work in your office. You are a leader even without having a single employee. It would be best if you ran for the position. The Prince of Wales would be glad to see a person like you in charge of the Forum.” That was the first time someone told me that I was a leader. My entire life flashed before my eyes, and I realized that I had always been who I was and had never changed. Then, the election for president of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum came. The large conference hall of the then-Sofia Sheraton Hotel was filled with

people in charge of businesses, each worth millions of dollars.

I had strong competitors, as was later always the case in my battles for leadership positions. The last was the World PR Association ICCO presidency election, which I won through an open ballot among representatives from more than 35 countries. In such cases, victory is the sweetest, but the job afterward is filled with responsibilities and commitments. At the time, three more people were running for president of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum. All three of them were representatives of large international companies,

were great professionals and have remained my friends to this day.

Each presented their ideas about what they would do as the Forum of Business Leaders president. I, however, put up a large flipchart on stage, and I showed what I wanted to achieve on several paper slides: more members, a focus on business contacts and development of members’ projects, and a business ethics standard.

After two rounds of secret voting, I could not believe the results.

My election gave me a huge incentive to start understanding leadership in its definitions and practices at the time, which became one of my main activities in the ensuing years. The following morning at 7 am, I met for breakfast with the then British Ambassador in Sofia, Richard Stag, who had a very positive attitude towards Bulgaria and was a great proponent of developing business relations between our two countries. The breakfast was in the ambassador’s residence. He had said that he would not be present at the voting to avoid any doubts about the impartiality of the election.

However, Susan Simpson, the European Director of the International Business Leaders Forum of Prince Charles, attended the vote.

When I entered the ambassador’s room, he smiled widely and said, “A former journalist and well-established PR expert is becoming the president of the Forum of His Royal Majesty. Now, that is great news!” In all those years, during my meetings with Prince Charles, with presidents, kings, prime ministers, ministers, and all kinds of awesome people all around the world,

I have always thought leadership does not manifest itself in shouting slogans in downtown squares or having everyone look at you with awe and shivering in fear when you enter your office. Leadership is a state of mind, and it’s essential that when you go somewhere, you are noticed immediately. You might have the most unimposing appearance,

but if you are a leader, you will be seen immediately;

there is no other way. That is only a single one of the many characteristics of a leader. As a good friend of mine used to tell me, “Max, when I see you at some event, you always look as though you are coming from a crucial meeting, passing by for a while, and going on to an even more important meeting.” Some people are 2 meters tall, but their state of mind is such that you don’t even notice them. I know people like that. I enter a hall; I know a particular person is in there, but I can’t find them for 15 minutes. Then I call them and ask, “Where are you?” The response is, “I’m right here, two meters away from you, don’t you see me?” Then, on the other hand, there are people of modest height who convey great confidence and are marvelous leaders. Leadership is a state of mind.

The Levels of Leadership

I am still waiting to say with 100 percent certainty. Still, as far as the levels of leadership go, I’ve decided that as the leader of a team and a company in a time of pandemic and remote work,

I must assume many more tasks and control a much greater territory.

This decision appears to be relatively buoyant, even if I risk snatching away part of my employee’s powers, namely, the lower-level managers. Why have I done that? I have decided that it is a manifestation of responsibility because the development of the company and its relations with its clients are, first and foremost, the responsibility of its manager. It would be absurd to hide behind my employees and say, “That was someone else’s responsibility.”


“The Morning After “ is available on and

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