What is leadership? What makes a good leader? What makes people want to get on board and own a cause or take some stance, against all odds? Here are eleven characteristics we have seen in great leadership.
Looking at the various social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., we cannot help but see dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of quotes made by people that have been worthy of archiving and regurgitating over and over, again. While many, if not most of the quotes have some immediate, perhaps motivational value, all of the quotes are part of the legacy these people left – an extraordinary legacy that is worth following.
These people were leaders. How do we know? People are following them today. As Dr. Bruce Winston of Regent University says, “If you look behind you, and no one is following, you are not a leader.”
If that is the case, what are the things that will inspire people to follow someone?
- Vision – While this term is thrown about, perhaps to the degree that it does not have the value it once had, it is still true. When someone says, “Hey – I want to go out to lunch,” they are creating a vision. They haven’t gotten there, yet. They don’t even have all of the details, such as where they will go or what they will order. They just created a vision that they probably feel will be a positive experience.
- Communication – Just imagine, if the idea of going out to lunch was never articulated. It was just a thought that no one knew about. Could anyone join in? Perhaps, they also might wish to go out to eat. Perhaps, they are waiting for someone else to come up with the idea.
- Motivation – Motivation will often come by describing the vision, or why other people should get involved with a certain vision. Using the analogy of going out to eat, perhaps that might look like all of the reasons to go, such as:
- Getting out of the office
- Enjoying something that did not come from a microwave, a desk drawer or a purse
- Taking some time to relax
- Understanding – Some people will want details, such as who is going, why are we going, etc. Others just want to go – they just love an opportunity to do something…anything. Others will simply follow, not wanting to be the office party-pooper. Others, still, will talk about the idea until lunch time is over. By knowing the members of their team, a good leader can anticipate their needs and manage them appropriately.
- Willingness to Serve – Dictators throughout history have proven time and time again, that dictatorships do not work. We’ve seen in recent history how these dictatorships are being overthrown. On the other hand, we have seen other leaders, who were bent on serving the needs of their followers, become very successful in their leadership, regardless of their plans to fill the role. Using the restaurant trip analogy, this might be as simple as going the extra mile to ensure you are going to a place that most people if not everyone enjoys, making sure everyone is taken care of, etc.
- Anticipating and Reducing Risk – While it may not be a commonality in the description of a leader, a good leader prepares their team for certain types of risk. In the military, we were taught to seek cover, wear our body armor, don’t wear anything that can reflect sunlight, etc. The risk was that we could be killed. Our leadership constantly enforced this to ensure that we were safe, but also to minimize the risk that we faced. In our restaurant analogy, you might find a restaurant that everyone wants to go to and relay the knowledge you have about the amount of time it takes to get a plate, or get to the restaurant, etc.
- A Strategy – while not every leader will have a step-by-step plan to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ – this is not often the talent of a leader (they tend to be big-picture people – think seeing the forest and missing the trees), they need to understand the major components of how to reach the vision. They will say, “Let’s go to McDonald’s,” versus, “Let’s take four cars – Mike’s Jenna’s, Peter’s and Michelle’s, and assign four people to each car who will be…” The strategy is your list of objectives – things you must accomplish – in order to reach the vision.
- Execution – making it happen. Leaders don’t just talk about what could happen. They are the catalyst to make it happen…and get other people on board, as well.
- Listening – during the journey of a thousand miles, there are almost always some objections, issues and concerns. This goes back to managing personalities. It is the leader’s responsibility to have the answers and be able to articulate them and/or address the ongoing needs and concerns of the followers. Ignoring these needs and concerns will nearly always lead to rebellion. Look at our restaurant trip, again. Just imagine if one of the cars got a flat, and the leader decided not to stop. What if someone at the table got sick and the leader ignored them. Do you think that leader would continue to have their followers – the people who decided to get together and go out with them?
- Consistency – No one will follow a flakey leader. There is a fine line between listening to the concerns of your followers and being considered a flake – someone who blows whichever way the winds do. Period. If you can’t decide which restaurant you are going to, someone else will decide. If you can’t decide how you will get there, again, someone else will decide. These are not marks of leadership.
- Confidence – confidence says, “We CAN get there. We CAN do it.” The bigger the project or vision, the more risks and uncertainty exist. Good leadership will continue to motivate and drive toward the vision, measuring every circumstance with sound wisdom and decisive thinking.
While there are many traits and characteristics that make up leadership, and different factors that play into what makes a good leader, the primary goal of a leader is to get their followers from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. Step up to the plate. Be the leader your company, your team, your community or your clients need you to be. Be extraordinary. Run an extraordinary company.
Aepiphanni Business Consulting: The Business Strategy People is an Operations Management and Business Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of small to medium sized business leaders. We specialize in helping leaders create extraordinary businesses.
We welcome clients in the personal and professional services industries, including Creative and Design Services, Software & IT Services, Professional Services and Specialty Consumer Services. As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts, questions and suggestions.
If you are seeking a business assessment, or have further questions about creating your strategy or developing your vision, please give me, Rick Meekins, a call at 678-265-3908, or email us at [email protected].