For many years we have been studying leadership, and it is the topic of development courses, books, workshops, keynote speeches, blogs, and so forth. Are leaders born or made? Who are our best examples of leadership? Is good leadership different today than twenty years ago? Who was a better leader: Lincoln or Patton?
We read the Harvard Business Review, participate in social media on the topic, belong to Mastermind Groups, and participate in forums to the point where the term "leadership" has almost become weak from overuse. I recently received a complimentary copy of "The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus". Come on, people, how far is this going to go? How much longer will we exploit the topic of leadership while we change nothing in the places that really matter (Our governments, businesses, communities, and families)?
The fact remains that the more we study leadership, the fewer examples of great leadership we see. Are we simply more aware because bad leadership has been exposed recently, or are our leadership skills getting worse? Possibly both.
So, let's take this down to the simple truths about great leaders we have studied throughout history:
1. A Leader acknowledges something bigger than her and defers to it.
2. A Leader is a master communicator of the message, and knows he cannot lead where he will not go. All personal agendas are set aside for the good of the order. The cause is the leader's passion.
3. A leader is willing to serve by example: to suffer, persevere, build character, and maintain hope. The culture of the organization is a reflection of the character of the leader. She takes responsibility for it.
4. A leader is committed to ongoing self-development, learning, and improvement. The leader is a student.
5. A leader surrounds himself with skilled advisors, and others who will hold him accountable. He is a person who can be trusted to do what's right, taking into consideration his advisor's expertise.
6. A leader is willing to love and care for every person on her team, as a shepherdess tends her flock; and is never slow to let a non-performer (or enemy of the cause) go. She expects the best from everyone.
Two Major Cautions about leadership:
- Leaders are human so they are not perfect, and they need to remember that. (So do their followers, who should not put them on a pedestal, lest they will be disappointed.) We all fall short now and then.
- Leaders become more vulnerable to corruption as their power increases.
The higher the position, the more accountability they need. This is the opposite of what they are often willing to do, unfortunately.
A word about executive coaching:
The higher your position, the more you need an executive coach. Ideally, executive coaches should not to be hired to "fix" a problem (although that frequently is the case). Coaches are to be hired when the leader is well, whole and competent. To keep a brilliant leader fully engaged in her work, and keep her balance while producing record results, hire an executive coach to be on board. A leader without an executive performance coach alongside is asking for reduced performance and eventually burn-out or a fall. Don't wait until there is a problem before you hire a coach.
Copyright protected Julia Marrocco All rights reserved. Adapted by Sorrell Associates with permission.