Who is a Leader?
Everyone is a leader. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are leading well. American culture tends to define a great leader as one who has vision and demonstrates boldness and decisiveness. Although these competencies can be leveraged for significant impact, if they are not tempered with equal amounts of wisdom and understanding, their effectiveness is diminished. Effective leaders understand and apply their competencies in a balance way that supports moving people toward the goal.
What is Leadership?
Leadership is influencing people, situations, and outcomes. Although leadership expresses itself in casting vision, building effective teams, setting goals, solving problems, and inspiring teams to action, I propose most people would describe leadership by the attributes of a leader who casts vision and inspires people to change. While many give leadership recognition to the person who articulates the vision, Hybels (2009) describes 10 key leadership styles that are required for any organization to grow. Which ones can you identify on your team?
- Visionary: casts vision; draws people in
- Directional: chooses the right path at critical junctures
- Strategic: align teams and breaks an exciting vision into actionable steps
- Management: organizes people, processes, and resources to achieve the mission
- Motivational: keeps the team fired up
- Shepherding: builds, nurtures, supports, and listens to the team
- Team-building: finds and develops the right people with the right characteristics, character, and chemistry, and puts them in the right positions to get the right results
- Entrepreneurial: possesses many leadership styles but optimally functions in start-up mode
- Re-engineering: thrives on turning around teams who struggle because they are missing a leadership element
- Bridge-building: deals with complexity and brings many groups under a single leadership umbrella
Where Does Leadership Start?
Since leadership involves the ability to influence people, I believe the first step in expanding leadership in any organization is for you to learn how to lead yourself better. What are your emotional intelligence, attitudes, and behaviors reflecting into the world? How are you preparing and working on yourself to be a better leader, so you have greater influence with your skills, competencies, creativity, and knowledge? Although self-reflection might be the start in developing self-awareness, an objective self-evaluation may prove difficult. You may receive more useful feedback, when you ask trusted friends and colleagues. Although family can be a source of leadership feedback, the closer the emotional connection, typically the more biased the feedback. The following general questions are examples that should solicit concrete feedback for self-reflection.
- Would you provide an example where you believed I could have had more influence? What could I have done more or less of that would have affected a better outcome?
- What changes should I consider in my general behaviors to achieve greater influence? Would you provide an example where this change might have led to a different outcome?
- When you observe me leading at my best, what am I doing or not doing?
Hybels, B. (2009). Courageous Leadership: Field-Tested Strategy for the 360o Leader. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.