This is the first part of a series on leadership.
Leadership is a tough quality to define. When NFL scouts look at a prospect, they classify leadership as an “intangible.” Leadership is definitely a quality, while tough to define, is a trait that you’ll able to distinguish whether a person has “it” or not.
When you take a look around you and throughout history, the world has been fortunate to have been inhabited by a whole host of influential leaders. Some of the most admired leaders have been Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What made these people such great leaders? Were they particularly great public speakers? Martin Luther King, Jr. undoubtedly was a great speaker, but I’m not sure the same can be said for Gandhi and FDR?
While leadership is certainly difficult to DEFINE, there are attributes that we can associate with signs of being a leader.
1. Visionary: A leader brings a vision to it’s group. It’s a plan by which others can FOLLOW. This vision brings the followers the emotion of hope and something the followers can strive to achieve. The vision should be clear and the leader should stand up for what the leader believes in.
“A leader is a dealer in hope” – Napoleon Bonaparte
2. Reliable: You don’t want to follow someone that shows up late or doesn’t do what they say they are going to do. In a leader, you want someone that’s reliable, with a message that people can follow. If leaders aren’t consistent if their efforts and their actions, it causes followers to begin to doubt the dedication of the leader to the cause. I can’t find a citation, but historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was recently on The Daily Show. She stated that during the Great Depression and during FDR’s tenure a citizen once said something to the effect of “I don’t have any money, don’t have a job, and I don’t have a reason to live, but I keep on going because I know FDR is there.”
“Deligating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” – Robert Half
3. Audacity: It takes guts to be a leader. It’s not for everyone. Some people would prefer to tag along for the ride and that’s fine. Not everyone can or should be a leader.
4. Empowering People: Inherently, people want to do a good job. They want to succeed and make others happy. As a leader, you need to allow people to succeed. By empowering people, the leader isn’t doing the task for the person following the leader, but instead gives them the tools necessary to succeed.
5. Positive: Nobody wants to follow a person who is “doom and gloom.” A leader doesn’t need to be all about rainbows and sunshine, but there definitely needs to be a boost of positivity especially when tackling a difficult project or the “going gets tough.”
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” - Winston Churchill
6. Motivating: If you don’t have the previous characteristics, it certainly isn’t very motivating for the follower to follow the leader let alone do a great job. A leader needs a vision, otherwise people don’t have a map and tend to get lost.
What do you think about the 6 characteristics of leadership I’ve given? Do you have any to add?
Photo by: Jim Bowen