How do we suitably define the role of leadership? We cannot. Like wisdom, truth, love, and life, leadership cannot be adequately defined in a library full of books. But what we do identify with, having been subject to good leadership, is the following eight (8) characteristics that surely speak volumes in the study of leadership:
- Leaders ooze authenticity:
Good leaders are genuine and their integrity is beyond question. They lead in transparent what-you-see-is-what-you-get ways. They can’t be second-guessed because their thinking is based in the moment with the exact information at hand. They only deal covertly for the overall benefit of the team i.e. for instance, when a time calls for temporarily keeping one’s cards close to the chest.
- Leaders conform:
This may appear to be wrong but it paradoxically isn’t. We might say, ‘Don’t leaders set the pace, not merely ‘following’?’ Uh-huh! Leaders work for organisations. Organisations have macro-objectives. Leaders must not only conform to organisation’s agenda, they must also believe in it; they’re active advocates for it. Now, there’s a selfless commitment required right there. Leaders who do not conform weaken organisations. True leaders don’t have a problem re-setting their priorities to align with the organisation’s provided their core values aren’t compromised.
- Leaders are models (for safety, values etc):
Leaders are role models of the positive variety through and through. They’re examples that stand out to the casual observer and particularly to the impressionable. Integrity has already been mentioned, but good leaders know the effect they have on others and they appreciate the privilege of leadership; they don’t take their role of model to others lightly. They will staunchly model the best behaviours.
- Providing context and alignment:
As the environment inevitably changes, the leader provides the necessary flux to assist in clarifying specific targets and goals. Whilst they elucidate the bigger picture and the ‘must do’s,’ they also identify clearly the smaller critical issues determining milestone success. And they do all this in a way that fits back into the organisation’s strategy lattice, as they always seek feedback from senior personnel in the organisation and persistently look for cues toward alignment and re-alignment.
- Provide coaching and empowerment:
Leaders of note are great one-on-one, but not only that, they can influence individuals in the collective environment, embracing opportunities to provide feedback and encouragement. They don’t overdo supervision and they trust their charges. They genuinely value the ability for the team to diversify and delegation is a key tool in their kit. In this way again, like the captain of a successful sporting team, they’re selfless for the greater team gain. Their leadership cultivates more leadership and the acceptance of responsibility.
- Leaders develop their team:
Going on from above, exceptional leaders know the value of team multiplicity. They don’t see the investment in people as a threat and they don’t become disconcerted when well-developed team members go on to better things; they simply wish them well, and have the ability to be genuinely thankful for their contributions. They know that other leaders also develop their people and they have faith that they too will certainly benefit directly from this. It’s a free exchange with no regret and everyone’s a winner.
- Leaders communicate well and broadly:
Understanding is difficult to achieve and the outstanding leader is constantly wary of this; their communications are imprinted with care. They pitch their language, pace, tone, and media for the situation, and they also recognise the impact of broadening the message so everyone can benefit. They’re champions of promotion and feedback and in this way their courage and faith are continuously on display.
- Leaders show empathy and care:
Finally, leaders are people who care for people. They have the ability to experience joy and sorrow at appropriate times in appropriate ways. For this reason they’re often popular and are ‘around’ things that people discuss. Team members of great leaders have no problem sharing their concerns, frustrations, and disappointments, as well as their successes.
By John Benson