“Good leaders must first become good servants.” -Robert Greenleaf
The reason why the notion of a “natural born leader” is so offensive to many leaders is that it is often used as an excuse. Rather than using leaders as role models too many people will say that the leader has some sort of intrinsic ability that they could never develop themselves. It is rooted in a defeatist attitude. Leaders possess qualities that inspire others, but generally are not born with the qualities. They develop them over time and more importantly these qualities become part of their character.
“Leadership is diving for a loose ball, getting the crowd involved, getting other players involved. It’s being able to take it as well as dish it out. That’s the only way you’re going to get respect from the players.” -Larry Bird
So far I have discussed how to get people to follow your goal and how to keep them motivated. Today I want to address the qualities that make someone a leader. People who attempt to lead and fail often do so as a form of manipulation or as a way to create less work for themselves. While having the support of those around you in achieving a common goal will make the task easier, that cannot be a leader’s first objective. Instead a leader is the fighting along side their team. Leaders actually must work harder. The speed of the leader is the speed of the pack. Leading does not mean you give less effort, but rather that the results of your efforts are multiplied.
“Leadership is getting players to believe in you. If you tell a teammate you’re ready to play as tough as you’re able to, you’d better go out there and do it. Players will see right through a phony. And they can tell when you’re not giving it all you’ve got.” -Larry Bird
No one will follow a leader who by their attitude or actions demonstrates that the common goal is not important to them. This cannot be a part time effort. Leaders cannot take the field and not give one hundred percent. You must be seen as consistently working towards your goal. If you are not, then you leave yourself ripe for mutiny. This consistency is what makes someone a leader.
“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” -Norman Schwarzkopf
All of your encouragement and commitment to a common goal are worthless without consistently demonstrating its importance to you. The word for this is integrity. Integrity is a larger concept than honesty or sincerity. Integrity is both of those put into action. Acting with integrity demonstrates your commitment to the goal. It shows that you will stay on the path until you reach the destination. Integrity cannot be faked.
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” -Nelson Mandela
Apart from leading your team into battle, nothing shows integrity more than giving someone else the credit. Too often people are suspicious of leaders who are out to receive credit. They worry that a leaders only commitment to the goal is to make the leader look good. When a leader gives credit to others they are affirming that the common goal is really their motivation. On the flip side, a leader cannot place the blame on the team when things are unsuccessful. Accepting responsibility for a defeat and giving away the glory after a victory will make your leadership far more powerful.
“Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you’re in control, they’re in control.” -Tom Landry
Once you have established this type of integrity with your staff it is vital that you monitor your own attitude. Your staff may only accept half of your optimism, but any pessimism you show will double theirs. As soon as they see you doubting the ability to reach the goal they will give up on it all together. Your ability to maintain your leadership is contingent upon your ability to convey that you have a confidence in the plan you have laid out. You must constantly be reinforcing this to maintain your integrity and continue to inspire them to greater heights. How you go about this will be the topic of tomorrow’s post.
This is one part of a six part series on leadership. The overview of the series and links to the other parts can be found here. You might also find useful my previous series on “how to motivate servers” or one of my other posts on management.
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