“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” –John Maxwell
What better time to talk about leadership qualities than during the height of a Presidential campaign Potential and current leaders of our nation are sermonizing daily, giving us the distinct opportunity to evaluate their leadership abilities. What qualities are they exhibiting? Is it true leadership? Is it demagoguery? Or is it simply well-developed oratory skills?
The ability to appraise the true leadership abilities of a leader is an essential but seldom utilized skill.
Here are some questions that reveal the true character of a leader:
- Can I trust them?
- Do they really care about me or do they have their own agendas?
- Do they have the ability to follow through on their promises?
- Do they have integrity?
- Are they fully knowledgeable about the issues and of how to effectively move the country forward?
- Would I want them as mentors?
Effective leadership embodies all the qualities we want from the people in whom we put our utmost trust. Whether it is the President of the United States, the CEO of a major corporation or the head of a small non-profit organization, we want someone at the top whom we can trust and believe in and who cares about us in return.
Leadership vs Management
Though the two roles may overlap in areas, leadership is different from management – primarily by way of the activities of each role. Leaders motivate, inspire and persuade via their natural and learned abilities and by inspiring trust and loyalty even in the face of daunting odds. Managers delegate, manage and execute tasks that are in line with the specific goals and ideals of the business.
Exceptional leaders seem to have an inner light and an unquenchable enthusiasm for their jobs. You often get the sense that, even if they were not getting paid, they would be leading out of sheer passion. Their work invades their personal lives and they don’t mind. There is an inner drive that makes them go Managers, on the other hand, may love and be extremely effective at their jobs, but they are more likely to leave work at the door at the end of the day. This is a good thing because leaders cannot be successful without the diligence and focus of talented managers working by their sides.
Leaders will work with teams to create the vision for the business. Managers will implement the strategies to consummate the vision.
Leaders are able to lead whether they have the title or not Their vision, passion, integrity and the trust they generate is what fuels their willingness and ability to continually move forward.
Most leaders are born with some of the skills needed to lead but many, if not all, leadership skills can be learned, coached and/or developed.
The vision and the ability to plan ahead are harder-to-learn aspects of leadership Vision, intuition, being able to read people and the ability to see the bigger picture are rare. Lack of these skills has tripped
-up many an organization. Failure to react quickly and effectively to key changes in the market or industry can lead to failure. Steve Jobs had real vision. Ronald Reagan, whether you liked him or not, could read and relate to people in a way in which most people fail miserably.
Learned Skills and Behaviors
Traits that need to be earned and learned over time and which require concentrated effort and energy to achieve include: integrity, respect and care for others, genuineness, fearlessness and positivity. Do you recognize any of these traits within yourself? If so, you are probably a natural leader and can be trained to hone the skills you already have and become adept at the ones in which you are weak or that you lack entirely.
People who lack these qualities can still be effective as leaders as long as they are aware of their deficiencies and surround themselves with others who can fill those voids.
There are other leadership qualities we have not yet mentioned:
- Communications / listening
- Leveraging team strengths
- Conflict resolution
- Analytical thinking
- Strategic thinking
In subsequent blog posts, we will explore many of these learnable leadership skills. Our next issue will discuss the importance of excellent communication and proficient listening skills.
Contact me if you’d like to improve your leadership abilities. As a John Maxwell Certified Leadership Consultant and former COO of a award winning business, I can help you become a more effective leader. Call or email me today.