Defining Leadership

The Art of Remarkable Leadership

Gail Solish asked:

Leadership is defined as the capacity or ability to guide others to accomplish an objective. To provide leadership, one needs to be a leader.

The following is a quote that captures the essence of a great leader:

The six most important words: “I admit I made a mistake.”

The five most important words: “You did a good job.”

The four most important words: “What is your opinion?”

The three most important words: “If you please.”

The two most important words: “Thank you.”

The one most important word: “We.”

Author Unknown

Wouldn’t you love to work with a leader who is willing to speak these words? It has been found that the most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction is trust and confidence in a company’s top leadership.

What qualities do you believe are required by a good leader and how does one become a leader? Although some people have natural leadership skills, good leaders are made not born. We are all involved in leadership capacities in our everyday lives. Whether we are leading a business, government, family, organization or arranging a dinner or household, leadership abilities are required.

Five of the most important skills of an effective leader are being trustworthy and ethical, the ability to be an effective communicator, good self-management, maintaining focus, and courage. Let’s explore these qualities.

First, a leader’s credibility is based on what he or she does and their beliefs and values (which incorporates an attitude of service regarding the needs of others.) If there is a discrepancy between actions and values than the leader is out of integrity. This clearly will be noticed and the leader will be less effective.

Second is being a good communicator. When a leader is clear about their direction and purpose then it is easy to convey this to others. If a leader is having trouble articulating what he or she wants to have happen, then it would be valuable to re-evaluate the goals. As well when one doesn’t have a clear picture about what is going on then it would be a challenge to talk about it.

The third quality is self-management or what many describe as life balance. It is important to acknowledge the emotional, spiritual, physical and psychological aspects of life. People are not one-dimensional. If one is physically exhausted or emotionally drained, they are not operating on all cylinders. Leaders need to continue to self-nurture in order to maintain the ability to provide positive, effective leadership.

Fourth is focus. Leaders are able to see the big picture and pinpoint what is important. If they become bogged down in details, preoccupied with perfection or insist on doing everything themselves, then their focus is off. The task is about leading rather than doing.

The fifth skill is courage. The willingness to do something different; to be open to new possibilities and be daring enough to implement them. Let’s be clear, this does not mean that there is no fear, but rather the desire to move forward in spite of it. Many companies would not exist today if owners had given into their fears.

Successful organizations have leaders who set high standards and communicate well. If your company is large it’s impossible to know all your employees, however you need to know many of them, as well as knowing what is happening. When changes are occurring, communicate the information to staff. When things go wrong, as they do from time to time, explore what occurred, rectify the errors without blaming others and move on. This sets the example for staff.

One woman executive had many of the leadership skills which have been described. Her staff felt she was supportive, encouraging and helpful, a mentor and a role model. However she also had been raised with the belief that men were more successful leaders than women. This notion interfered in her attaining higher positions within her company. To become the dynamic leader she wanted, her learning required her to explore this inhibiting belief.

In speaking with university students who had several work placements, they stated that although they had learned a great deal from having good bosses and a positive work environment, they learned just as much, if not more, from jobs where the boss was difficult and an ineffective manager. From adversity can come the greatest learning. They had learned what kinds of environments and management they did not want to experience. Consider the bosses, managers and leaders with whom you have worked. What were the things that you liked about their style and what did not serve you well?

In order to be most effective leadership must be conscious. The awareness of what you are doing and how it affects the company’s objectives and the staff morale is paramount. A good leader should not only focus on what he/she thinks is best, but must also consider the greater good. It is now becoming important to think beyond the company and consider what impact the business is having on the community and environment. Many companies are now encouraging and providing the opportunity for their employees to volunteer in the community. This directive comes from the top down, the leaders.

Great leaders are involved in an on going process of self-study, education and action. Determine where you are on your path to providing great leadership and what actions you need to implement in order to increase your skills.

Copyright 2007, Gail Solish.

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