Recently, Brittney Helmrich from Business News Daily wrote an article titled "30 Ways to Define Leadership." She quoted a number of thought leaders and CEOs from around the country after asking 30 business owners and experts to define what leadership means to them.
Consequently, I too have been thinking about leadership. Most of my experience comes from being a leader in a variety of capacities and being around good and not-so-good leaders throughout my career. What I have discovered is there is a pattern of leadership, and good leaders share the following ten patterns.
Have and share a vision
Good leaders have a vision. They know what they want to do. But the amazing thing is they don't keep it to themselves. Rather, they share that vision far and wide. They gain vision from the different perspectives of every corner of their organization. Their vision encompasses everyone, and soon the leader's vision is the organization's because everyone helped create it. Warren Bennis once said: "Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality."
Hoarding leadership at just the top will eventually topple the organization when that leader goes away. Some leaders may think they are indispensable. An old farmer once said how indispensable people really are: "Most people will be missed," he said, "about as much as when you plunge your hand in a bucket of water and pull it out." Good leaders share and teach leadership skills to those in their organizations. They raise leaders and help emerging leaders become more engaged and more effective leaders.
Exhibit strong values
In today's ever-growing, vigorous workplace good, solid values are hard to come by. Dishonesty, disloyalty, disrespect and other "dises" run rampant in our society. A few years ago, Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. wrote a Forbes article entitled "The Only True Leadership Is Values-Based Leadership." His point was essentially that good leaders exude strong values of honesty, integrity, persistence, positive attitudes, consistency, trust and many, many other good and positive values.
Exceptional leaders continue to discover the skill sets of their employees and help them grow and progress. If the skill set is just emerging, then the good leader will equip those employees with experiences that will enhance their skill sets, thus making the employees more valuable.
Stand up for and do the right things
Being a leader is difficult. Often, the decisions they make are hard ones. But we all know that making right choices can be challenging, especially with all of the noises that shout at us from all levels. Standing up and standing strong, while simultaneously making right choices, will separate good leaders from mediocre ones.
Trends of making money and gaining more power often cloud the real vision of what needs to be done and the decisions that need to be made. This causes a good leader to deviate from a proven pattern. Good leaders follow the pattern of having clarity of thought. They can continue to see the big picture despite the boulders and debris that periodically clutter the working mind and the pathway to a successful enterprise. Good leaders can shoosh away the clamor and clutter by keeping a clear head and clear mind and by maintaining sound principles.
Care about people
More times than not, some leaders are bent on making the organization great in order to gain a greater market share, create financial collateral for themselves and their shareholders and plow through the competition, all the while overlooking the greatest asset of any business: the people who work there. Good leaders care deeply about the people within the organization first and foremost. They want them to succeed because when the people succeed, so does the organization—all parts of the organization.
Inspire people to do extraordinary things
All organizations are blessed with people who are pulling their full weight. Good leaders follow the pattern of inspiring those people and others who may not be pulling their full weight to do things they wouldn't normally do. Think of coaches who have put together a group of mediocre players and created a championship team because they can inspire their team to work hard, think smarter and do things they wouldn't normally do. The Leadership Institute touts, "Leadership is the art of leading others to deliberately create a result that wouldn't have happened otherwise."
Leaders are not backseat drivers but neither do they use whips to get the job done. A good leader is with his or her people all of the way. From many viewpoints, the leader is out front, waving the flag of we-can-do-it. The irony is this: They literally lead from the front while guiding from the side, the back, the middle, above, below and from other angles. They are everywhere.
General Collin Powell once said, "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand." That is one of the challenges of leaders. Complex ideas face all of us at one time or another. The key is how to break down the complex so that the rest of us can understand it.
Good leaders show these patterns of leadership and more. They are the ones who reach down and pick us up while moving rapidly toward the goal. They take time to show compassion and exhibit a willingness to give a sense of clarity that will trumpet us to the front of the line with them. When the people following are successful, leaders will be successful. So, good leaders will always include the people along the path of an organization's success because they know the patterns, live the patterns and, sometimes, create the patterns.
Darrel Hammon likes being outdoors, growing things and seeing things the way they could be. You can read more of his musings at darrelhammon.blogspot.com. He and his wife worked as welfare volunteers in the Caribbean.