This is only one quote on leadership among hundreds, or more likely, thousands. There is probably no other concept in business that’s gotten as much attention as leadership. But what is it? Most of us think we know it when we see it, but it shows up in so many diverse situations and in so many different styles that it’s difficult to give it a succinct, one-size-fits-all definition.
My trusty dictionary defines leadership this way:
- the position or function of a leader
- the ability to lead
- an act or instance of leading
- the leaders of a group
Not really very helpful, is it?
I think the quote at the top is correct in terms of an outcome of leadership. The outcome has to be to give people the confidence and desire to work together toward a specific goal. But what does it look like in action? As it turns out, it has hundreds and thousands and millions of looks. That’s why it defies definition. However, there are a few characteristics that seem to be common among great leaders.
First, to be a great leader means being authentic, being yourself. You can’t fake it. You can’t imitate someone else’s leadership style. You develop a style of leadership that reflects who you are . . . your personality, your values, your way of communicating. Great leaders come in all sorts of packages. Some are quiet and thoughtful, some are brash and commanding, some are humble, some are arrogant. They all can work. So don’t try to fit into somebody else’s package. Work on developing your own.
Great leaders tend to be great communicators. If your people are going to follow you, they need to know where you want to take them, why you want to take them there, and if they go there with you, what’s in it for them? Great leaders are good at communicating all of that fully and honestly.
And great leaders understand that their primary responsibility is to help those around them succeed. Leaders who put their own image and their own welfare above that of their organization will never rise to greatness.
When an organization is not performing the way it should . . . when there is uncertainty, confusion, or doubt about the direction it is heading . . . leadership is at least part of the problem, if not all of it. Have you looked over your shoulder lately to make sure your people are following you? If you have, and don’t like what you see, call me. We should talk.