Are You a Leader Worth Following?
I believe that most people WANT someone to be in charge; they want to know that the person in front is competent and qualified. People want to know that the person in charge knows what’s going on, and is plotting a course for the greater good of everyone. And yet — it’s been repeaded proven that people will follow anyone in the absence of good leadership.
“…in the absence of genuine leadership, (people) will listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone… 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.” (The American President)
Friends, leadership is more than just telling people what to do. Leadership is about our behavior, not our position. Leading from the stage is not such a very big deal; most people everyone can ‘act’ like a leader when they are in the limelight. For me, the bigger question is: What’s your behavior like when nobody is watching?
In these days and particularly in the American culture, it’s easy to confuse being a ‘celebrity’ with being a ‘leader’. Yet the difference is profound: celebrities are concerned with HOW MANY people are following them, leaders are concerned with HOW MUCH IMPACT they have on the lives of the people who are following them. Being a celebrity is about visibility. Sometimes, true leaders aren’t even visible.
Sadly, I believe there aren’t enough people focused on impact, they are focused on being a celebrity. So I offer you a short list of leadership behaviors worth following:
- THEY HAVE VISION: Where is the person you are following taking you? Is it good for them, or good for you? Are the things you are putting your hand to at the behest of the person who is leading you worthwhile? Are you growing as a person — personally and professionally — because of following this person?
- THEY MAINTAIN THEIR FOCUS: People need to follow someone who has focus — who isn’t jumping all over the board chasing butterflies. Focus requires discipline and strength of will. Focus requires putting aside what’s cheap or easy for what’s impactful and meaningful. When you follow someone who is focused, they help keep you focused, as well.
- THEY EXUDE CONFIDENCE: Confidence is different from being prideful, although others don’t always perceive it as different. Confidence is the ability to listen to what your gut tells you is the right thing to do, rather than listening to your ego or your fear. Confidence enables leaders to step aside and let others do the tasks that they can do better. When a confident person’s ideas are challenged, they don’t become defensive, they work to help others understand and they seek to understand others’ perception of their ideas.
- THEY ARE TRANSPARENT: Are they willing to admit their mistakes (since everyone sees them anyway)? Are they willing to be vulnerable? Are they coachable from those who are wiser than they are? Transparency isn’t about sharing details ad nauseum via social media. Transparency in a leader should be purposeful, targeted, and strategic.
- THEY SOLVE PROBLEMS: Leaders seek to solve problems, not place blame. They ask the right questions, focusing on improving processes and procedures vs. blaming individuals and circumstances. When people aren’t getting along, a leader can drill down to give a sense of perspective that re-focuses the teams’ efforts. Blame-based leadership focuses energy and efforts on finding the ‘bad guy’ who serves as a lightning rod of sorts to absorb the negative energy of the group. On the other hand, a leader who focuses on solutions re-focuses the teams’ energy on taking action to improve communication, processes and outcomes.
- THEY HONOR FAILURE: Too much has been said about success; not enough has been put out there about failure. Failure hones skills, changes perspectives, and can create a ‘productive tension’ that fuels re-evaluation of the ‘how we’ve always done it’ mentality. With the right leadership, failure can be a learning process that gives ownership of the outcome to the team, and makes the ultimate success of the project that much sweeter.
And so I end this blog with the age-old question: Are leaders born, or made? I believe they are CREATED from within. If leadership is about behavior, not position, then YOU are the master/mistress of your fate — YOU have the ability to discipline yourself to behave in ways that improve communication, deepen connections, and enable your workgroup, your family, and yourself to achieve successes far beyond what you might have ever imagined.
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