What does a leader look like? Sound like? What does a leader do? Today more than ever before, these questions scream out for answers in our country, in government, business and throughout our communities. Truth be told, there is no one correct mold. Great leaders come in all shapes, sizes, voices and styles. However, great leaders share a common outcome – they oversee getting important things done!
While leadership is hard to define, you know it when you see it, feel it and hear it. An effective leader creates clarity about where the business is headed and how each team member can contribute to the cause. Such clarity helps reduce confusion and wasted actions and energy. Clarity also helps people to make better decisions within established boundaries. I wonder as many of you do, are today’s leaders establishing those boundaries? Unfortunately, I think not.
A leader should motivate individuals to work together optimally for a common cause or vision. Given the penchant for today’s so called leaders to focus on divisive versus uniting issues, we need real leaders who will pull us together rather than push us and others around. Leadership is about communicating, not shouting out commands. The screaming talking heads on TV and radio need to heed this. Leaders cannot, should not use fear, half truth and innuendo, disregard facts or outright lie to coerce or draw people to follow them. This approach will never earn the hearts, minds and will of people, or at least I hope that it won’t.
Real leadership is all about positive influence, the ability to make others want to follow you and your cause for good and honorable reasons. Proof of leadership is found in the loyalty and commitment level of your followers and most importantly the integrity of the leader’s message.
A leader needs to create clarity of purpose and direction for the organization, the right conditions and the right climate for success. It’s simple; a leader cannot succeed on their own. A partnership forged in pursuit of a common cause not divisive, negative, baseless, vitriolic smear tactics is essential. Leaders gain nothing by developing followership that evolves from spewing venom.
Here are fundamental leadership practices that I recommend:
A leader creates clarity of purpose & direction by:
- Knowing where they are going, and why and how they are going to get there.
- Developing and articulating a compelling vision that is inclusive for followers.
- Selling the benefits of this vision first and foremost with facts, not conjured emotions, stories, symbols, etc.
- Establishing clear direction, strategies, and objectives to confront issues and solve problems
- Developing a simple, clear plan that will be consistently articulated
- Developing processes for accountability
- Encouraging followers to work together for the common good
- Focusing on key priorities and results not the clutter of distractive rhetoric, self interest or greed
- Setting standards, monitoring performance and giving feedback
- Being a true leader means taking the time to think, plan, see the big picture, and solve problems
- Inviting constituents to share ideas and become involved in the decision-making process – avoid command-and-control leadership – above all listen, hear and respond respectfully to what they are saying
- Serving and caring for others – being a giver, not a taker
- Maintaining open and honest communication; being open to positive and negative feedback
- Helping the follower face reality – the good, the bad and the ugly
- Accepting 100% responsibility for the results of their leadership
- Being bold and decisive even in the face of limited information
- Driving out fear of mistakes; encouraging experimentation and innovation
- Teaching and motivating others to reach their potential
- Being a competent, well educated, caring and connected leader of good character
A government, a community, a company without real leadership is like a sports team without a head coach and without a game plan. Both scenarios will result in players or followers doing their own selfish thing, running around without a purpose, with no sense of accountability, making repeated mistakes, posting lackluster performance, and most likely losing the game. Does this sound at all familiar to you as you observe leadership today?
I would love to hear your comments on today’s blog. Please let me know your thoughts.