While doing a bit of reflecting, I began thinking on the different areas of leadership that I have held. And how fulfilling these roles brought responsibility for the success of myself, my family, co-workers, a organization, or maybe a group of friends. In most cases, all or some of these were bound together. Here are three lessons/principles that I feel summarize not only my experience, but some of the greatest successes and failures of leaders that I have admired, or at least gleaned understanding.
At the moment, I am a bit consumed with this little, yet significant word. In any case, a leader must “BE.” A leader must BE himself. A leader must BE present in the situation, organization, crisis, etc. A leader must simply “BE.”
Too many times, leaders can become sidetracked by their position or title and fail at any of the above examples or countless others. Many times, I have witnessed leaders who fail at the first because they do not know who they are. Therefore they fail at being themselves which is usually why the position of leader was acquired. The reality remains that if a leader fails at being who they have been made to be, it is only a matter of time before other stressors are evident: unrealistic expectations, taking on tasks that are not a good fit, poor vision, etc. All of which can be curbed to a great degree when a leader knows their own person, and chooses to BE that person.
Leaders must be able to build around themselves. This means understanding personal weaknesses, and building a team that will meet those weaknesses. This also requires a leader to be secure enough to admit faults and recognize that others excel in these areas. Too many times, leaders try to cover their failures and weaknesses at the fear of being “exposed” as a fraud. A true leader will understand these faults and recognize them as strengths within others looking to build the best possible team.
Not only does a leader build a team, but they also build an environment in which the team functions. The trustworthy leader facilitates and orchestrates the environment in which the team will flourish. This is not unchecked freedom, but accountability balanced with room for errors which can bring growth. Significant growth if the right environment has been built. LEaders bear this weight. It is tough, but that is why they are leaders.
Leaders empower those around them. Plain and simple. If someone is not exercising empowerment, they are more of a manager or authoritarian rather than a leader. Leaders set people free to excel and create in ways and areas in which the leader may not be able to do. This is tied into the security of the one leading. In my experiences, those who are most insecure are the ones most controlling and authoritarian. The adverse has been true as well. Those who I have found to be most inspiring as leaders were the ones empowering me to be who I was made to be, and even helping me get there.
A leader who encourages their team member(s) to grow can be empowering. The leader who says, “Yes. Now let me help you get there,” is truly empowering and moving not only the individual forward, but the team is moving forward. It is not enough to “inspire” people to do what we want them to do. This can easily become manipulation. But leaders must inspire and empower people to become what they are passionate about and driven toward.
A leader who can be, build, and empower is a leader worth following. He is also a leader who is usually willing to follow when it is necessary.
What lessons or principles on leadership could you share?