Leadership – How are you doing?

Many companies often devote resources to develop the business and technical ends of their operations without paying sufficient attention to developing the leadership capacity of their people. When this happens, they find their business out of sync. In other words, the organization has not been sufficiently developed to take maximum advantage of the resources created to support the organization (e.g. computer systems, sales and marketing systems, production systems, etc.).

Using automobile racing as a metaphor, the car is only as good as the driver holding the wheel and the pit crew supporting the driver and the car. If you were thinking of doing some research on the subject of leadership development, you might go into shock when you discovered how many sites were available. If you checked out the web site of a popular Internet bookstore, you will have a choice of over 6,000 books on the subject of leadership. Just picking a book that suited you could be a career in itself!

After discovering how much information existed on the subject of leadership development, it seemed best to set a goal to have you work with the information that exists, and with the traits you already have rather than trying to impart new wisdom. Practicing as a management consultant for over 30 years has enabled me to see some of the best and worst leadership. These experiences have been in the setting of privately owned businesses and during 6 years service in the Army Reserves. The list of leadership traits shown below was compiled during a “brain-storming session” with about 20 leaders who are members of the Siena Family Business Institute. The basic question posed was, “What traits would you want in a leader in order to be willing to follow that person?”

While not exhaustive, this list is worth reviewing. Your comments are invited. Some people believe leaders are born. However, many management experts believe that leaders can be made. In other words, people can be developed into leaders.

This point of view has some validity, but it may be like saying “Anyone can learn to play the piano.” A retort could be, “Not everyone can become an accomplished pianist”. Perhaps it is fair to say that if someone does not have the inherent gifts to become a great leader, all the training and development in the world will not make him/her into one.

Nonetheless, management would be well advised to consider taking a hard look at how well it is doing to provide the encouragement and support to foster leadership development within its organization. The list below may be idealistic. Some great leaders were not highly endowed with all of these traits. There may appear to be some duplication or overlap among some of these traits (e.g. industrious/high performer); however, there are some nuances that make them different that cannot be addressed at this time.

LEADERSHIP TRAITS

Adaptable Industrious
Alert Initiates
Ambitious Integrity
Approachable Intelligent
Brave Intent
Caring Loyal
Competitive Open Minded
Conditioned Patient
Confident Poised
Cooperative Respectable
Consistent Reliable
Decisive Resourceful
Delegates Risk Taker
Enthusiastic Self control
Empathetic Sensitive
Fair Skilled Fighter
Faithful Successful
Friendly Team spirit
Hands-on Time manager
High Integrity Visionary
High Performer Wise
Honest

If you are in a leadership role, it might be enlightening to step back and take stock of yourself regarding these traits. I could suggest more formal and objective ways, but for now, I think just taking a “peek” at yourself from a distance is a good start. You will likely identify those areas that require the most attention and offer the greatest potential payback from additional development. You will find that it is difficult to focus on more than a few areas at one time. So, do not get overly ambitious.

If you have the heart for it, and if you use a competent and objective, third party (called consultants), you might even try to determine how your peers and subordinates view you. In Organizational Development circles, this is known as “360 degree feedback”. This can be an eye opener (good and bad). Supposing you do this and learn that your rating in certain areas is not to your liking? What are your options? You can say, “Nobody’s perfect!” and continue functioning at less than optimal. You can walk around feeling guilty or ashamed for being imperfect or you can decide to engage in a program of self- development.

Sometimes this takes the form of listening to cassette tapes, reading books, completing questionnaires and the like. You can also hire an executive coach to work with you one-on-one. Another option is to bring in a trainer to provide seminars and workshops intended to teach you new skills (or hone existing ones), tune up your attitude, and help you and your teammates to function better as a team. After all, who said only the leader needs development?

You probably already use many of these tools. My only hope (not a modest one) is that by simply bringing this to your attention, you will invest the time to focus (the operative word) on your leadership development. My main premise is that everyone has some degree of leadership capacity in them. You see this during times of crisis when a non-leader takes control of the situation. This is manifested in the military through astounding acts of heroism. An astute leader recognizes when he/she is not as effective as they want and need to be. Take a moment to review the checklist above to reflect on your situation. Perhaps this will give you a clue where you need to look deepest. Good luck on your search to discover and develop the best that is within you.

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