Sunday, November 4, 2012

Introduction to Leadership

 Part One of Become a Change Agent: ended by describing vision as the cornerstone of your leadership. Part Two dives straight into the nature of a vision because you can’t lead without an idea of where you are going! This series of blog posts will act as the bridge between Parts One and Two.

Chapter 3 even lists the negative trends that we readily see in today’s institutions and the “leaders” that manage them. Now is the time to ask…

What is a leader?

A leader organizes and directs people in a common direction. It may be toward a goal or a series of goals. Leaders and Managers are different; even though there is some overlap for managers of people. It is possible to manage a process, a service or inventory. You can only lead people. Managers have titles, budgets and infrastructure. Their authority is granted from a higher authority. Leaders have followers and their authority stems from their actions and skills. Leaders have roles.

Leaders lead from the front. They are doers, not managers. Those that follow them know they pull their weight and give more because they can see what the leader is doing – not cowering in a corner office. True leaders embrace their followers as equals. They celebrate the accomplishments of those they lead and freely give away credit.

Two critical components of leadership are transparency and the ability to present a coherent message. The leader’s vision may be huge and complicated. Presenting the parts in “digestible” pieces is key. At the same time, the pieces must both make sense and fit together in an easy to understand and follow format. This is the message or the vision in an easy to communicate form.

Transparency means that people know what a leader is doing. There are 2 levels of transparency, internal and external. External transparency is communicating concrete and verifiable facts that indicate the leader and organization are playing by the rules and executing on their plan/vision.  This must be balanced against the needs to protect the confidences that have been entrusted to the leader. Leaders cannot openly talk about the organization’s “special sauce” – the special knowledge that makes the group’s deliverables unique.

Yet another aspect of transparency is a leader that openly owns his/her own mistakes. This has the added value of helping the group avoid repeating that mistake!

Leaders must vigilantly guard against falling into the ego trap. True leaders are constantly complemented because they are effective. Flattery can be addictive to the ego. The best way I know to preserve humility is to understand where the ego fits in the self. (A description of this is found at the end of my report on Models. You can get a free copy by subscribing to my mailing list.)

 True leaders lead with passion and love. Passion is an intensely positive attitude toward the leader’s vision and goals. Love is the genuine affection the leader feels for his followers. Leaders that fake either of these traits will be exposed in the long run!

Is there more than one kind of leader?

The short answer is yes, there are several kinds of leaders. Here are a few of the important types of leadership.

Business leaders lead organizations that produce goods and services for a profit. The leader may be over a small business or a specific unit of a large business. Large organizations tend to be run by professional Managers that don’t necessarily fit the description of leadership listed here.

Non-profit organizations are also run by leaders. These organizations tend to provide services that cannot be expected to earn a profit as defined by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. They must operate by a specific set of rules to qualify as non-profit organizations.

Community and political leaders tend to have common goals. They organize for the good of a specifically defined group such as the citizens of a city or a defined interest group. Their primary concern is the well-being of the people they both lead and serve.

Thought leaders strive to be at the cutting edge of new ideas. They both observe and create new methods and technologies. Thought leaders are recognized for innovation by their peers, typically in a specialized business environment. Most people additionally consider thought leaders as mentors that deliver value to customers in the form of innovative ideas.

Want more about Leadership?

Kevin W. McCarthy has written a couple of great books on the subject. He takes the subject of both personal and team leadership on in much more detail than I do.

What is coming in the next post in this Leadership Series?

The next post deals with visionaries and why they never go out of style.


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