Why is it that some people wouldn’t follow one leader to the bathroom but would take a bullet for another? We’ve all met leaders at both ends of that spectrum. We’ve observed what makes a good leader and what makes a poor leader, so how can we learn from both?
Leadership has been around since the first cave dwellers, surrounded by dangers, huddled together as a group and stood behind one of their own. Early hominids faced survival challenges ranging from natural disasters to man-eating animals to warring tribes.
Even then you had to sleep sometime. Your buddy would sacrifice his sleep and food-gathering time to watch over you while you got some shuteye if you would to do the same for him. The natural reaction to this type of exchange of personal sacrifice is trust and cooperation.
Fast forward to today where man-eating tigers have been replaced with ever-morphing technology, warring tribes with competitive businesses and common sense with trending socio-political mores.
“There can be no success without challenge—for it is only when faced with challenge that we may know success.” Seneca
Challenges are the only constant in leadership—all else are variables. How can leaders best prepare to face challenge adequately and effectively?
Good leadership is about guidance and problem-solving in the best interest of the group. It is a mission objective met only by fostering a culture of trust and cooperation. Much like a good parent who wants only the best for their child, a good leader strives for opportunity and conditions that the group may achieve more. The proven ingredients for good leadership today are the same as they were millennia ago—cooperation, motivation and courage.
Whether the head of a family, a school or an organization, designated leaders have some idea of the criticality of their position. Good leaders know that the secret to success is group cooperation. You cannot gain cooperation without trust. However, trust is not freely granted and can only be earned. To earn such trust, a good leader knows that they first and foremost must be a member of the group.
Perception derives from impression. A leader can assume either of two positions: one of judgement or one of truly caring about every member of the group and making them feel safe. These are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Coming from a position of authority, you sit up there on your throne and cast your judgement upon those “below” you and ask yourself “Why don’t they trust me?” The answer is painfully obvious that you have assumed a position of an authoritarian as opposed to somebody who cares. The old saying “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” applies.
The instant you earn trust you earn cooperation. Only when the group knows that you’ve been there done the same as everyone else, can you expect to build those bonds. Nothing gains greater trust than having been in the trenches together.
The most intrinsic responsibility entrusted to any leader is to make important and difficult decisions for the group. If they were easy decisions, they would not have been passed up the chain to you. When you accept leadership, you accept this responsibility. Today’s pressing decisions are subject to everything from political correctness to ever-shifting trends in public opinion.
A proven method for making the right decision is to make an accurate assessment of a situation and respond accordingly. To accomplish this is to gather as much relevant information as possible about the subject upon which you are deliberating so that you can to make an informed decision.
If the group knows that you’ve truly done your homework and have made an educated decision, then you have upheld your end of the bargain—to provide guidance in the best interest of the group.
Indecision is viewed by any organization as weakness. Weakness destroys credibility and dismantles motivation.
Making informed decisions demonstrates leadership strength. If you fail to make decisions or defer those decisions to others, it compromises any trust you may have previously earned.
Shirking your responsibilities means that you are indecisive which in turn demonstrates weakness. Accepting that responsibility and making informed decisions garners motivation.
Capability and strength are the foremost leadership expectations of any organization. To meet these expectations is to place the needs of the many before the needs of the one. It’s necessary to find that slippery line between convenience and courage. It takes courage to do the right thing especially if it flies in the face of trending public opinion.
Courage is having the willingness to make personal sacrifice. People are inspired and motivated by personal sacrifice. A poor leader will take the absolute bare minimum steps, where a good leader, will go that extra mile for the group.
Exhibiting capability and strength are exemplified by choosing courage over convenience. Demonstrating courage significantly contributes to motivation and cooperation.
HIGHER LEVEL DEMAND
More is asked of leadership today than ever before. A good leader cannot rest on their laurels but must stay ahead of the action-reaction power curve by being proactive, remaining ready to act on demand and prepared with sound reactive measures.
A good leader asks, “What happens next?” The pace of technology for example—by the time you get something approved through the system its outdated. Intelligence-led leadership is becoming the norm and is often used as a force multiplier when demand calls for doing more with less.
Nobody expects a leader to be perfect. To err is human and everyone makes mistakes. A good leader may not know everything, but people will follow them into battle because they are trusted. Good leaders motivate by making well-informed decisions. Courageous leaders inspire by making people feel safe and in doing so develop a culture of trust and cooperation.