You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case. —Ken Kesey
Scott Douglas Clary says, “If you were to build a house, you would begin with a blueprint. This blueprint proves useful because it contains more than directions on how to build a house. It also describes the finished house.”
So, what does this have to do with leadership?
Well, the best iteration of leadership, like all things that require planning organization and strategy to realize an ideal end product, has a blueprint as well.
Whenever you ask a group of individuals what the “ideal” characteristics of a leader are, you’ll generally get an answer which encompasses some (if not all) of these traits. These would be emblematic of an employees definition of an ideal leader.
A good listener, enthusiasm, passion, shows appreciation, a visionary, role model, trusting, integrity, organized, knowledgeable, credibility, persuasive, charisma, team building, clarity of purpose, problem solver, attitude of service, leads by example, patience, willing to act without complete knowledge, understands followers, consistent, empowers other people, and adapts to change.
1) Notice what the list contains. All of these characteristics relate to the human side of leadership. That’s interesting because I often hear people minimize this side of leadership with terms like “soft” or “touchy feely.” Actually, applying these characteristics requires more strength than not.
2) Notice what the list excludes. Absent from this list are characteristics such as stern, mean, serious, short tempered, vindictive, tough, angry, harsh, punitive, controlling, violent, or ruthless. And that’s interesting because many popular representations of leadership emphasize at least one of these “hard” characteristics. In fact, these characteristics are the refuge of those who lack the strength (or the skills) to apply the human side of leadership.
3) How about you? How would you rate yourself as a leader compared to the list of positive characteristics? If you were to survey the people who report to you, how would they describe your leadership? Would they list characteristics from the “soft” list or from the “hard” list? Could you become more effective by improving upon any of the “soft” characteristics? And how about the other leaders in your organization? Do they truly maximize human potential?
People want leaders who treat them with genuine compassion, courtesy, and respect.
They want leaders who help them become more successful. They want leaders who inspire them with a vision for a better world and show them how to get there.
Build a blueprint of how you should lead, by knowing how people want you to lead. At the end of the day, the most effective way to lead is to align and guide, not command and impose.
That said , leaders have the ability to see the whole forest but also the detail of every tree. one of the things that frustrates me the most is the failure to balance these two. whereas we are all excited to have strategic thinkers who are focused on taking in the entire canopy of the forest and are able to climb up so high they can see how far the forest spreads , it is very important to sometimes have them come down from the top and take a walk in the forest, commune with every tree, see how every root is interconnected , discover the different kinds of plant life that contribute to the Eco- system of the forest. It is important to get on the ground and see how beautifully the tress are growing to create that canopy we are so invested in, to connect each individual trees’ contribution to the bigger forest.
I too,am a culprit here. I spend so much time focusing on the vastness of the forest and dreaming of how much farther it can be spread that i sometimes forget to stop and appreciate the small and big trees and plants and insects that are contributing to the canopy i so much enjoy. So my resolve for whatever time is left of this year, is to spend a lot of time understanding the Eco-system of the forest i am a big part of growing. I am grounding and centering.
what kind of leader are you? what kind of leaders are you grooming?
It is very tempting to get so focused on the trees and lose the forest and you can also focus so much on the forest and lose the individual trees.