He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.
Benjamin L. Hooks
Leadership is accepting people where they are, then taking them somewhere.
The effectiveness of your labors and efforts will never rise above your ability to lead and influence others. You cannot consistently produce on a level higher than your level of leadership. But often we are so concerned about the “product” of leadership that we sidestep the process. There are no shortcuts to leadership. No slick technique or the hottest methodology learned from the most recent seminar will cover up for a lack of character or competency.
So what does it take to be leader? What qualities do you need to develop? Consider the five “Ls” of leadership:
Listening is one of the most important resources a leader can possess. This single quality enables you to gain valuable insights in addition to building trusting relationships. As you listen, learn to listen with understanding. Suspend the certainty of what you think you know and listen to what is being said, as well as what is not being said. Listen with concentration and compassion, for without these components you’re not really listening.
Leaders must lead by example. This point cannot be overemphasized, as it is impossible to impart what you do not possess. A leader needs to live out the principles and values he expects to see in his followers. John Maxwell has said, “People are changed not by coercion or intimidation, but by example.” It’s difficult to lead someone further than we have been ourselves.
Only through learning new things do we continue in our pursuit of excellence and avoid the tendency to become stale. As John F. Kennedy stated, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Whether personal or professional, growth is the only evidence of life. Read, listen and learn as much as you can. Commit yourself to a continual, systematic schedule of personal development and orient yourself around that commitment to strategic growth.
The old adage is true: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If your goals and decisions are self-centered, followers will quickly lose their loyalty and enthusiasm. Resist the temptation to use people simply to fill your organizational chart or complete a personal mission. That’s manipulation; not leadership and certainly not love. Loving people involves making others feel important out of your genuine concern and commitment to them. Remember, people are not a means to an end, they are the end!
This is the ultimate commentary on your leadership effectiveness. This means devoting ourselves to the development of the full potential of those around us. Think about the legacy of your leadership and how you will be remembered. Will you be remembered for your loving commitment to others? Your ability to listen? Your continual pursuit of improvement? Your consistency to walk the talk?
A commitment to leadership is a commitment to personal integrity, character and growth. Don’t shortcut the process by failing to develop the needed infrastructure. More than a position, leadership is a lifestyle!
Stay the Course,
Dr. Greg Morris