Every single real leader I know would be shaping opinion, facilitating change and moving the proverbial ball regardless of the job description, title on the business card or position in the org chart. Leaders can’t help it.
They don’t simply change the rooms they walk into. They change them for the better.
They have much more than a point-of-view. They conjure a vision.
Leaders inspire confidence, seed a collaborative mindset, and hence, build consensus. They assemble teams that work.
And though we are, at times, tempted to mistake charisma for leadership, the ability to attract followers is no more an indicator than eloquence, appearance, race, gender or financial achievement might be.
We know this of course. Or at least most of it. But practical application can be difficult.
Managing a process does not equate to leading people — notwithstanding the essential nature of this skill somewhere in the structure of virtually any organization. And when we, however unwittingly, insinuate that the ability to inspire, motivate and mobilize automatically accompanies the conference of a title or position, we greatly diminish the idea of leadership. Not to mention the potential.
Here are four characteristics that the giant leaders I’ve known possess.
1. They are skilled listeners, seeming to hear between the lines.
2. Their perspective is broad — they see and articulate the big picture.
3. The vision they possess is larger than their ego.
4. The interests of the team, tribe or community trump individual agendas.
Leadership is not packaged in a title or position. When we look for it there, we are frequently disappointed. Those who lead possess a deep-seeded conviction that when united by shared goals or aspirations, even a small diverse band can achieve remarkable things.
We have plenty of titles. We’ve all been in the figurative kitchen with “too many cooks.” I don’t ever remember hearing “we have too many real leaders in this group.”
Why does leadership seem in short supply? Just maybe we too frequently fall for the wrong characteristics. What would you add to the above list?