What makes a good leader? I’m often asked that question by mid-level managers who seek to rise in the corporate world by learning how to manage effectively.
Here’s what I tell them: Leadership is when you empower others to do what they never thought they could do.
The most effective leaders are solution facilitators rather than problem solvers. This viewpoint may differ from the old rule of leadership that positioned the leader as an all-knowing deity who rules with an intimidating iron hand. You will be more successful if, as a leader, you develop a style of management that provides the tools to others so that they might solve the problems and receive the credit for doing so.
The leader as a “demigod” out front and hell-bent-for-leather may have been an effective image in the past, but leadership in today’s world calls for a different approach.
Leadership in the modern world is defined by the appearance of leaders following the followers to achieve the objectives the leader led the followers to believe were the objectives the followers had established for themselves. (See how I said leaders take complicated things and make them simple?)
The traditional concepts defining leadership have been in place for centuries, but many of them have outlived their time and should be replaced. Those who seek to offer leadership to will gain their following, power and success when they cheat on the old rules and develop a different set of rules, as I outlined in my book, Cheat To Win. Their power will come from understanding that:• When the rule says be out front: Allow others to ride the horse.
• When the rule says be the hero: Let the others carry the flag.
• When the rule says retain power: Make sure power is shared.
• When the rule says know it all: Make sure others learn more.
• When the rule says be above it all: Be accessible and in the trenches.
• When the rule says tell people what to do: Teach people how to do it.
• When the rule says have all the answers: Look for answers from others.
• When the rule says put the portrait on the wall: Put others up first.
• When the rule says take all the credit: Give all the credit away.
Putting it all together, to be a leader today means being a visionary who can reminisce about the future in a way that allows others to see the future they can make.
The leader “lives the vision” but motivates others to adopt it as their own and commit to achieving the vision in order to please the leader. The leader is followed when flexible enough to adjust to the environment but is consistent to the vision itself. The leader is a decisive, multi-faceted person who lives in the future but acts in the present; is a planner with a clear communicated purpose who builds alliances that allow others to achieve the vision. The leader is recognized by the followers as ethical, decisive, consistent, communicative and willing to share the accomplishments with all.
Most of all, the leader is one who can be trusted. When the real leader finishes, the pictures on the wall are of the others who made the vision a reality and proved that the leader truly was a leader.