February 27, 2014
Leadership is one of my favorite broad subjects. I’ve read many books on the subject and have been to a bunch of training seminars over the years for leader/managers. I’ve also been privileged to hear different motivational speeches that always leave me inspired. The speaker that I heard a few weeks ago was no exception.
When I think of leadership there are many quotes that come to mind:
- “A leader is one who knows the way; goes the way; and shows the way.” – John Maxwell
- “Leadership is influence.” – John Maxwell
- “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” – Harvey Firestone
- “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie.
- “Leadership in its simplest form is making a difference.” - Mark Fernandez, The Luck Company
I am sure there are many, many more quotes where those came from, but those were my favorites. Leadership is making a difference. Not only to those around you but also to yourself. It is a high calling to be a true leader. Not all leaders are born to be Presidents or CEO’s. Some leaders are right amongst the ranks of the everyday, normal, hard-working folks.
Leaders come in all forms and fashions but generally there are some traits that stand out to me for those that are good leaders. Here are my thoughts on qualities of a good leader:
- A good leader is a good follower; someone who can lead the whole, and also step back and follow just as easily.
- A good leader is slow to speak – not slow speaking, but is slow to open his/her mouth and remove all doubt of idiocy. Sometimes it is necessary not to mouth off but to step back, ponder the situation thoroughly, and then speak.
- A good leader is someone who is meek. Now bear in mind that there is a huge difference between meekness and weakness. Being meek is being humble, patient, and calm. Just because someone is meek does not make them weak in any form.
- A good leader is one who leads by example, not the old “do as I say not as I do” adage. It is terribly hard to follow someone who can’t live by the boundaries that they set for you.
- A good leader can be friendly with everyone he/she is leading, but never friends with them and there is a big distinction between the two. Sometimes that’s one of the hardest qualities to possess and the hardest lines to draw.
- A good leader is a good communicator, not necessarily a good orator, but one who can communicate to those that they are leading and motivate them, make them buy into the course of action that it requires to achieve an end result.
- A good leader is one who realizes that he/she is only as great at being a leader as the team is at following. I remember a scene from G.I. Jane where the Master Chief is talking to Lieutenant O’Neil and he tells her “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” This goes toward knowing who you have in your team and influencing them to use their strengths and expertise. As Harvey Firestone said, “The secret to my success is a two word answer: Know People.”
There are many more traits or qualities of good leaders and I could keep going with traits that I think are important. We as a county, the United States of America have been blessed with so many great leaders through the years that we have many examples to follow of how to do the job correctly. Look at the legacies that men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Regan, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Andrew Carnegie just to name a few.
What happens in cases where there is no leadership? It has been my experience that the lack of a true leader causes discord among the team. It causes division and derision. It causes the team to turn against each other and turn in on itself to the detriment of the organization or to the purpose.
When I think about the lack of leadership, I wind up going back to a scene in The American President when Michael J Fox’s character – Lewis Rothschild – is challenging President Shepard played by Michael Douglas. The scene in mind is in the oval office and Lewis is demanding some answers of his President and it goes something like this:
Lewis: “People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absences of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”
President Shepard: “Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.
In truth, we are thirsty for leadership. We are either searching for someone to follow, or we’ve got people following us. Leadership is something that is learned, practiced, and perfected.
So, what are your thoughts on leadership? What traits do you find make people good leaders? I’m really interested for your thoughts on this one.