Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Are YOU Leading?

The world is full of leaders. Some amazing, some inspiring, some despotic and tyrannical. Leaders who succeed are full of energy like Martin Luther King or quiet and calm like Mahatma Ghandi. There is no 'one way' to define a leader, no 'one word' that encapsulates what makes a good leader, but instead, there are many qualities that describe what leadership looks like.

Are YOU leading? And if you are, then WHAT are you a leader in?

I tell my class all the time that they have the potential to lead. Leaders are born but they are also created in part too. EVERYONE is capable of leading something, although there are some people who just naturally draw others to themselves, and these people are natural born leaders. These are the people who are calm in the storm, rallying the troops, organising the bake sales, gathering and amassing people around them for a cause and so on.

So what makes a good leader? I believe there are some qualities that we find in most excellent leaders:

1. The ability to listen - recently, I had cause to contact the Principal of my son's school to make a minor complaint. The only thing he did was the only thing he needed to do - LISTEN. He immediately made me feel that he had the issue in hand and that I could trust him to lead me to the resolution. Great leaders LISTEN.

2. The ability to innovate and synthesize - thinking ahead of the game is something that is essential. Leaders will naturally find new ideas and will draw people to their own ideas as well as their ideals. They are often market leaders and look for the opportunity to seek what has not yet been found. Great leaders CREATE.

3. The ability to empathise - everyone wants to be valued and feel understood. When we talk to someone about an issue, we like to feel that the person knows how we feel. This empathy is important in leaders - we need our leaders to feel what we feel. They do not have to sympathise, but they do need to empathise. Great leaders FEEL.

4. The ability to draw others to them - we have all worked with these types of people and we know this quality in our friends and family members. Some of them have a charisma that naturally draws us to them. My mum would always say that my father could sell a donkey to a racing car driver. He has a natural charm and charisma that always drew people to him. He still has it - at 76 years old, I watch him with his friends and they simply hang on his every word. This quality is dangerous in some people - it is the quality that Hitler and Edi Amin possessed. It is the one leadership quality that depends upon us using it very wisely. With this power, comes great responsibility. Great leaders are TRUSTWORTHY with this ability.

5. The ability to judge well - leadership has its drawbacks at times and this is no exception. When we lead, others expect us to have good judgment. It is a given. Great leaders have INTEGRITY.

6. The ability to risk - leaders are always the ones with their necks on the line. The buck stops firmly with them and good or bad, the end result is their responsibility. They are resilient, often looking for the next option or planning the back up plan in case of disaster. They accept failure as the deep part of learning. Great leaders DARE and RISK and are often the possessors of great courage.

7. The ability to 'lead up' - strong leaders always grow other leaders. They recognise leadership qualities in others and are constantly on the look out for those who are like-minded and who they can grow into leadership roles. Someone once told me that the greatest leaders are the ones who work themselves out of a job. In other words, they recognise in others the NEXT phase that the leadership role needs to move forward. Great leaders GROW GREAT LEADERS.

So, take a look at what you are leading and how you are leading. No-one in the world ever gets it perfect with leadership and it really is a huge responsibility to lead in any field. Good leaders recognise their short-comings and GREAT leaders seek constantly to improve these. Some of the best leaders I have ever met are the most amazing encouragers and also incredible followers when that is required of them. Food for thought...

Happy leading!

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