Leadership is not just a job or a vocation. It’s a calling…
The problem is, there are many “Leaders” who don’t see it that way. They like the trappings of the office. The perqs. But they don’t see that they have to step up to “The Calling” aspects of the office of Leader. So they don’t step up.
I saw an acronym the other day for L E A D E R S H I P.
I didn’t like it.
I thought someone had slapped it together just to make the letters in the word work out as an acronym. I hate when people do that. Try and put together a click-baity little meme with no substance.
We ought to be all about substance…
But as I looked at the letters, I realized that there indeed were 10 characteristics of Leadership that made sense as an acronym. Ten really important attributes that define and make up a true world class leader.
In my 45 years in business, many as a leader — of groups, departments, and of entire organizations and companies — I have found these 10 characteristics in great Leaders. Over and over.
I’ve also had a lot of opportunities to observe, and work with as well as for many leaders throughout my career. Some great. Absolutely outstanding and world-class. Others good. And still others just plain mediocre or even bad. So I speak from a little bit of experience when I put together this list.
Here is my version of the acronym L E A D E R S H I P and the 10 qualities that I have discovered outstanding leaders exhibit.
Ten Characteristics of Outstanding L E A D E R S H I P
Leadership requires logic, intellect and brain power. I have never known a great leader who wasn’t smart, thoughtful and logical.
This doesn’t mean that the Leader knows it all and has all the answers...
It means the Leader follows a logical and thoughtful process to get answers and solve problems regardless of where those solutions actually come from.
In a logical leader’s organization, things make sense from top to bottom. Vision, Mission, Goals, Objectives, Policies, Procedures, Processes, Projects, Assignments, Tasks, and Outcomes are tied together by a common thread.
The work just makes sense.
“Questions don’t have to make sense, Vincent,” said Miss Susan. “But answers do.” ― Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Understanding and sharing. Key words. Note, this does not mean agree. Leaders are able to understand and share.
Outstanding Leaders empathize, and are able to step into someone else’s shoes…
This is the first step before determining whether or not one agrees or disagrees. And certainly the first step before coming to a conclusion about what the problem is, or isn’t. And then solving it.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ― Ernest Hemingway
Accountability has virtually disappeared in our society. It’s literally gone from our social fabric, business environment and certainly from our political and governmental settings. Very few people and Leaders want to be responsible and accountable. There is little to no ownership of actions and decisions. The phrase of the day seems to be —
Mistakes were made, but not by me…
Outstanding Leaders are accountable. The buck stops with the Leader.
“It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Outstanding Leaders are decisive. They gather the facts, ask questions, obtain input from subject matter experts and people with wide perspectives.
Great Leaders don’t make hasty and ill formed decisions. But they do make them…
Once they have listened and gathered the facts, they decide. Take action.
“Analysis paralysis is an epidemic that cripples countless dreams and great ideas. Be swift, decisive, and always move forward!” ― Matthew Loop
Young people want to be empowered. They want to be trained, mentored, coached, and then empowered to get things done. They want autonomy to carry out the mission.
I have found that really good people don’t want or need to be managed…
They actually dislike being told how to do something or to be tightly constrained on how the job at hand should be carried out. So outstanding Leaders orient, coach and mentor their people, and then empower them to carry out the job. Empowered people are fulfilled people, and they highly value Leaders that empower them.
“Leadership is not always about your power, it’s all about your ability to empower, encourage, and elevate others” ― Farshad Asl
What does respect mean? There are two basic meanings of this word.
- A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. As in “the leader had a lot of respect for John as a consultant”.
- Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others. As in “the team couldn’t hide their lack of respect for their less than competent and less than honest leader. ”
So given these explanations, let’s choose the second one. Because the first type of respect requires a certain kind of relationship between people. This kind of relationship, and respect, is not necessarily required for strong leadership.
But the second kind of respect is most certainly a basic element of outstanding leadership…
Great Leaders have a high regard for people. They consider feelings as they interact with people, and are thoughtful around them. They are attentive, polite and courteous. Show me a Leader without this quality and I will show you a Leader in name only.
“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” ― Albert Einstein
Outstanding Leaders are liberal with praise and eager to give credit. They take pride in the exploits of people in the organization and take every opportunity to recognize others’ achievements.
The worst thing a Leader can do is to place blame and to take credit for the outcomes of others’ hard work…
Great Leaders never do this. Often, they sacrifice their personal gains for the good of the organizations they lead and are responsible for.
“Selflessness. Humility. Truthfulness. These are the three marks of an honorable man.” ― Suzy Kassem
You will be hard pressed to find an outstanding Leader with any kind of ego. Egotistical Leadership is the ultimate oxymoron, although it is quite common to see Egoist “Leaders” in action today. Humility is at the top of the character list for outstanding Leadership.
Pride is the worst trait a Leader can exhibit. Not only because of the damage it does to the organization and it’s people, but because of the potentially disastrous results it can personally have on the Leader…
Humility actually brings great power, not weakness. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “A great man is always willing to be little.”
It’s too bad we have many so-called Leaders who are so egotistical, they need a separate seat on airplanes for their egos.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.”
― Criss Jami
The adjective for integrity is ”integrous” (meaning “marked by integrity”). Not exactly a well known word. So I used the noun here, “integrity”, in this list of adjectives because it is better recognized.
Integrity is the absolute number 1 quality an outstanding Leader has to possess and exhibit. Followers — genuine, intelligent and loyal followers — will forgive many things a Leader is lacking. But integrity? A Leader who lacks integrity will find themselves with no followers. At least not the kinds of followers you want want on your team.
Integrity is all about walking the talk. Its really easy to talk a great game. But outstanding Leaders put their money, and actions, where their mouths are. They walk the talk daily.
“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” ― Spencer Johnson
A great Leader communicates vision with passion. It is easy to see where you should be going, and to become inspired by a passionate Leader. Outstanding Leaders focus on the “WHY”. They start by asking and answeing the WHY question.
Why do we exist?
What drives us to wake up every morning to do what we do?
Why do we do what we do?
Outstanding Leader discover their own WHY, the Organization’s WHY, and help others find their own specific WHY.
It is this passion around the why that causes people to follow outstanding Leaders.
“As if you were on fire from within. The moon lives in the lining of your skin.” ― Pablo Neruda
Over the course of my career, I’ve discovered just how great a responsibility is the mantle of Leadership. A Leadership position is not something anyone wants to take lightly and step into without thought and significant preparation.
Both experienced and developing Leaders ought to consider these ten characteristics. They should perform a self-assessment and put in place an action plan to strengthen the areas in which they need work.
Perhaps Leaders ought to consider engaging a mentor, coach, or trusted adviser that can help objectively assess and improve those areas where the Leader needs work.
Leadership requires it. Our institutions and organizations need it. Our society demands it. And our people deserve it.
If you are a Leader or aspire to become one, your call to action is to review the list, objectively assess and self-examine yourself in these areas, and take steps to fill your gaps.
Let me know if I can help. I’ve got some limited time to help some of you that believe and truly want to improve…