The topic of leadership has drawn the interest of many. Not least because to be ‘first among equals’ entails access to perks and benefits not available to many. But, that’s a topic for another article all together.
So what makes a good leader? Is s/he someone who can talk the loudest, push others to go/see his way the hardest, the best connected, the most receptive, the most likeable, the most pious religious devout with a VIP access to a certain God?
At the most basic level, a leader is someone who leads other. But, what is it about being a leader that some people understand and use to their advantage to be a good leader? What can you do to be an exceptional leader? To me, first and foremost, a leader is a person who has a vision, an opportunity, a drive, a determination and a commitment to achieve that vision, and the know-how and skills to make it happen.
Simply having a vision, however, is not enough. Necessary but not sufficient. Many people are able to see clearly things that should be done, things that should be fixed, great step forward that could be taken. What makes leaders different is that they act, and able to inspire and motivate those arund him/her to act. They take the steps to achieve their vision. Is it a passion for the idea, an inner sense of drive, or some sense of hard-to-conjure nature and nurture derived sense of accomplishment? Whatever it is, it is the strength that lets leaders move their vision forward despite all the obstacles, despite all the people saying it cannot be done, it is too costly, we tried that before, or a dozen other excuses. We now how people can honestly overestimate their ability to understand why they are making certain decisions and/or doing taking certain actions even when they have no clue about what is happening inside. The true leader perseveres and moves forward, not-with-standing.
There are things that set leaders apart from other people. Some people are born with these characteristics. Others develop them as they improve as leaders. These are not magic bullets. They are things you can do and be if you want to be a leader.
There are as many traits of a leader as there ae lists of what makes a leader. Here are the fundamental traits of a leader from my perspective:
• Is seen to have the right form of integrity. People have to believe that you are pursuing your dream because it’s the right thing to do, not just because you are ego driven. You need to be able to differentiate and prioritise fairly and inteligenty between the nice and must have to get things moving. I will not enter the presently ongoing debates about whether good leadership should be about seeing integrity as doing the right thing or energetic wholeness. What is presently important for me is the existence of Congruity. Congruity means that what is on the inside matches what is on the outside in whatever a leader does.
• Is a people person. Understands the differences that make people unique and is able to use those individual skills to achieve the goal. He/she need not be the most popular person in the room but he/she certainly should be able to work the forest to find and nurture the right trees without the need to resort to forest burning.
• Is a facilitator. Admit it, most of what we call leadership consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done, or even to want to. This is very sad becuase leaders are the one single most important enablers in any organisation and they enable by facilitating performance. Leaders makes it easy for people to work either together or individually and to excel. Out of clutter, leaders find simplicity.
• Is positive. A leader encourages and rewards people and makes you want to do it and do it right. A leader is not a negative person and doesn’t waste time and effort telling everyone what they’re doing wrong. He/she Increases his followers ability to confront their ideas, to create a window into their minds, and to face their unsurfaced assumptions, biases, and fears by acting in these ways toward other people. I believe in the importance of this because following the Hermeneutics tradition I understand that the world is only available subjectively and therefore its interpretation. One of the most amazing features of human beings is that we believe we can explain just about anything!.
Beyond the personal traits of a leader, there are specific skills someone must learn and master if they want to be a leader.
• Effective communication – it’s more than just being able to speak and write. A leader’s communication must move people to work toward the goal the leader has chosen. Communication here entails hearing, listening, consulting and directing. This is extremely important because we all have a tendency to bloviating certainty — swatting away doubt and choosing up sides precisely because not having answers feels so uncomfortable and potentially threatening. Communications within the corporate world, in turn, may easily become polarized and rigid.
• Decision making– the ability to navigate through the often discussed traps that envelope decision making processes to make decision, to decide, to take decisive action. To make decision and make them right.
• Motivating – a leader has to be able to include the right people and motivate them to contribute. The right people is an important pre requisite because the quality of an organisation can never exceed the quality of the minds that make it up. If your actions inspire your team to do more, learn more and do more and become more than you have gone an inch closer in becoming a leader.
• Directing – leaders need to be able plan to achieve the goal. He/she should not get too bogged down in the details. That is what managers are for. But, he/she must be able to provide that important threads which connect the increasingly complex organisation together. Leaders make sure that all within his organisation move. to the same direction. When he doesn’t the leader him/herself becomes a peripheral opponent to the organisational mission. Either you lead, follow or get out of the way but never do all three at the same time!.
The bottom line is that leaders lead. They refuse to let anyone or anything get in the way of achieving those dreams but are also inclusive in his actions. They are realistic, but unrelenting. They are polite, but insistent. The constantly and consistently drive forward toward their goal. The move organisations, move nations, move the world because they create and foster the right culture and posses the right attitude and skills.
You can be a leader. You will be – when it matters enough to you. As Shakespeare once most aptly stated “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. May opportunities come abound your way for you to prove the great leader that you are.I
Posted in Rudolf's Articles.