Who is a leader? Oftentimes we think of leaders as the boss in the workplace. Someone in a position of authority. Someone we have to follow.
Leadership comes in many ways. An individual can inherit the leadership or authority, think the monarchy or the boss’s son. This individual may or may not possess the characteristics that make a good leader they just happen to be born into the position. They may be chosen or the leadership position might come simply through time and experience. I am envisioning the sales guy who has bad tactics but has been with the company since before the dinosaurs and is placed in a position of leadership simply due to longevity not necessarily because they are the best individual for the position.
A Leader rises to the occasion.
The leadership that is the most successful is that which arises from the individuals who are not seeking it. These individuals are leading through example. These are the men and women that others in the company turn to when something goes south or they need advice.
How do these people become leaders? Why do we naturally gravitate to them and value their opinions and ideas? There are many characteristics that cause others to be aware of the leader in the room. The leader doesn’t have to be the most outspoken or opinionated forcing their ideas on everyone else. Oftentimes, the leader is someone who is observant of the situations going on around them and are able to quickly and correctly come up with solutions to whatever problem is at hand.
A Leader is trustworthy.
If those that are following don’t trust the leader's decisions then they follow very hesitantly. What is trustworthiness? Saying you will do something then following through in a timely manner. When faced with a moral dilemma the trustworthy individual errs on the side of caution and will always try and do what is right.
Today in our workplace we are seeing a growing number of millennials. This generation needs to understand that if they want to be seen as leaders they must be able to be trusted. In speaking with a restaurant manager recently he complained, “These younger kids, they don’t have any respect for the workplace. If they are going to be late, they don’t call. Heck, I had a two-day training for new hires and one girl didn’t come the first day. When I asked why she was getting her hair done and just couldn’t make it.” This is not being trustworthy. It is becoming rarer and rarer that individuals will follow through with what they say they will do.
A Leader is willing.
This goes hand in hand with being trustworthy. The good leader doesn’t sit on his throne and order his subjects. He is willing to lend a hand, to be in the trenches to help whenever he can. This is the leading by example. Your followers will respect you more if you are willing to get your hands dirty as it were. This is not to say that the leader doesn’t delegate responsibility. On the contrary, the leader's main responsibility is to lead and delegation is part of that. Being willing is the ability to see a problem and not refusing to do something about it; quick to act or respond.
A Leader is purposeful.
They know where they are going and they plot out the path to get there. No multi-million dollar company just one day suddenly appeared. Most are your 10-year “overnight” success stories. The good leader is working as Covey puts it, “with the end in mind.” If you don’t set goals you won’t know when you have achieved them. A good leader is weighing their decisions on not only the present but the future impact as well. They will often ask themselves, “is this decision in line with the bigger picture?” When they set a goal and don’t reach it the good leader looks in the mirror and asks, “what could I have done a little differently to have gotten even 1% closer to my goal?” If they achieve the goal, the good leader will likewise evaluate what they did right and what they could have done better.
A Leader is humble.
I know that this is hard to believe but the world's greatest leaders recognize that they didn’t get to where they are without other individuals assistance. They do take credit when it is due but understand that others had influence. Head basketball coach for the Louisville Cardinals, Rick Pitino said, “Humility is the true key to success. Successful people lose their way at times. They often embrace and overindulge from the fruits of success. Humility halts this arrogance and self-indulging trap. Humble people share the credit and wealth, remaining focused and hungry to continue the journey of success.”
As you continue your journey toward being a leader, on your journey to success, remember that leadership is your ability to influence others positively or negatively. Your words, deeds, and actions show others who you are. Being a leader is not a title, it is a privilege.