I can answer this question in one phrase: Leaders lead.
More often than not, I am dismayed at the way the word "leader" or "leadership" is assumed by some people. You lead because people follow you. You don't lead because you have a title or the corner office. If ever you have to say, "I am the (insert title here), do what I ask you to do," you have lost all of your moral authority to lead. Simply put, leaders lead.
Let me give you a few suggestions that will help to clarify this simple and, hopefully, blindingly obvious statement:
First, I would refer you to my blog post of the Ten Hallmarks of Profound Leadership. Those are my observations of what makes a great leader, what makes a leader vs. a manager. Those are things that I have learned, sometimes after having paid some significant tuition, sometimes after following a poor leader and thinking they were good because the facade was good, or just by general observation. All of them, however, have been taught to me more than once.
Second, leaders have an amazing ability to stay focused on the big picture, the huge vision, and to communicate and sell that effectively so that people "buy in" to that. People want to work for a cause. The "WHY?" They want to be engaged in something bigger than themselves.
The ability to communicate that in an effective manner, in a way that engages people and presents that to them so that they nod and concur and form (correct) conclusions, but also elicits emotion in them so that they take action, is a critical attribute of a leader.
Simultaneously, being extremely detail-focused. Leaders don't lose sight of the details because they understand that success is in the details. As one of my heroes, Vaughn J Featherstone, said, "It's the realm of the final inch." More often than not, I see great leaders and organization so close to success, but if they would just make that one degree adjustment, that small step, or pursue that final inch, they would achieve what it was they were dreaming of.
Great leaders understand communication and sell that huge vision, but don't lose sight of the details that are necessary in getting there. They are adept at communicating their vision and they know where they are going and that they are going to get there--whether people choose to follow them or no. And if they take that posture, others will follow.
Third, they are great communicators. The official word would be that they are adroit communicators. They are very good at helping people understand where they are right now, unambiguously and sometimes brutally honestly, and where they want, or need, them to be. They help people extrapolate from now to then. They help them walk that path, chart that course, and most importantly they help them understand and feel that, "I can go from here to there."
Fourth, they build people. They understand that their business or their organization is built upon the skills, attributes, DNA, and abilities of their people. They hire well and fire quickly particularly when their DNA doesn't match. You can't teach DNA so they hire well. Let me give you an example. A-grade people, top-notch people, great leaders hire other great, "A-grade" people. They are unafraid of others being technically better than them in one area or another. In fact, they look for people that are better than them in the respective sphere in which they are looking to hire.
B and C grade people hire others who are a notch below them because their whole leadership paradigm is about them being better, on top, or being the boss. It's I-centric or me-centric.
Great leaders understand that steepness of the growth curve and the velocity at which they are traveling is purely a function of the quality of the people they hire, train, develop and help build that trajectory. Lower grade leaders hire to maintain the relativities, and as a consequence, never get where they they want to go. They may maintain those relativities and feel good for the short term, but they never move the organization along that continuum of growth because an organization only grows at the speed you grow your people.
Many of these are in my. These are the things that are most pertinent to me now. These are the lessons I have learned are germane to true leadership.
Again, simply put, leaders lead. They lead because people choose to follow them. They lead because they know where they are going and communicate that clearly to those who choose to follow them.
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