Leadership…what it really is

There are a great deal of misconceptions about leadership. Some may say these are the folks that should know the most. These are the folks that make all the decisions. These are the folks that have been around the longest. These are the folks that benefit from what everyone else does.

Those thoughts could not be further from the truth. Yes, leaders do need to be knowledgeable of the process being led, but they may not be the experts in the respective tasks. They do make decisions, but not without the input from others. Length of service may help, but that’s not a defining requirement. Benefiting from what others do would depend on what others are doing.

So what is leadership? Leadership is best described by what leaders actually do.

1)Seek to expand their perspective and knowledge to provide the most capable leader to the team.

2)Accept responsibility for the team and the results.

3)Clarify the objectives/purpose of the work for the team members and communicate in a manner that keeps everyone focused.

4)Resolve uncertainty or conflict within the team and communicate clear direction.

5)Involve the team in problem solving and bring out the best in all team members.

6)Facilitate discussion to get input from team members to optimize the ideas to generate the most favorable results possible.

7)Invest time with people to build credibility and trust from the followers/team members.

8)Communicate clear expectations with accountability while recognizing solid performance and addressing unsatisfactory performance.

9)Equip team members with all the resources (training, materials, supplies, etc.) to be successful.

By taking a closer look at the action words starting each sentence above, you will notice that the first letters of each word going down the list spell sacrifice. Number 10 on the list would say leaders sacrifice of themselves for the good of the overall team. They sacrifice time. They may sacrifice convenience. They may sacrifice personal recognition or attention for the betterment of the entire team. Leaders may also sacrifice personal needs at times. In his book “Leaders Eat Last”, Simon Sinek talks about his observation of spending a few days with the US Marines. While he observed very strenuous training, very focused drills filled with constant correction from officers, and very specific instruction throughout the morning, the thing that left a lasting impression was meal time. During the breaks to eat meals, the officers ate last. While somewhat symbolic during times of training, it is evidently also carried out during times at war. Officers will push troops to do things beyond normal expectations, but will always ensure those under their command are taken care of first before meeting their own needs. What a powerful, clear picture of sacrificial (servant) leadership. What a great reminder during this season of the year as well.

The other common theme from the list above is the need to communicate well. I can’t stress enough how important it is to communicate clearly, to ensure understanding, to vary the methods (both verbal and visual), and to constantly seek opportunities to convey key messages. If you want an engaging facility, you have to have engaging leaders. There is nothing else that makes that level of impact. Nothing! If you want to be an engaging leader, you have to communicate well. It does not matter how much you know. It matters how much you communicate what you know.

As we end another year, finish strong and seek to do those actions noted above more frequently going into 2017. It will make a difference, and you, in turn, will make a difference.

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