Thursday, January 14, 2010

Leadership... Style or Substance?

What is true Leadership? I have had the good fortune to be around several influential and successful people over the years. I would say they represented themselves as great leaders in their areas of expertise and all for a variety of reasons and at different moments in time. But what is the definition of leadership that encompassed their actions or their impact on us. If we go to a dictionary we would probably find something like…

Leadership is an interpersonal influence directed toward the achievement of a goal or goals.

We can always look for a formal description for a word, an action or even measuring the resultant effect. But the ultimate definition of real leadership , or our impression of a true leader, goes well beyond just a notion of some sort of influence. We would necessarily want to discuss attributes of Leaders that we all have known or have learned about. We would probably want people to know or understand how those people have impacted us individually and collectively. We may talk about not only their influence at a particular time, place or moment, but their ongoing impact in our own approach to people and circumstances. Greater still… the ongoing impression that we have about a memorable leader probably has a lasting influence on how we would wish ourselves to rise up and act during a challenging event.

It is also right to consider multiple aspects as far as the situation or circumstance that the leader found themselves in and how we also perceived the breadth of those challenges. We often speak about how circumstance dictate not only the leader’s actions but the response from the group or team that the leader is part of. Winston Churchill was by most estimations a great leader at a pivotal time in history. When you actually research the history before and after his most influential leadership moments, you also begin to see why it is important to consider all aspects of circumstance as well as the actual words or actions that a leader has been credited with. He was very popular as a wartime leader but quite ineffective both before and after because of a wide variety of conditions.

So if we understand that the popularity of memorable leadership takes into account a set of conditions as well as actions we begin to understand the broader context of being a good leader. My contention is that truly great leaders have basic personal character traits that transcend just the decision making moment. The leaders or heroes that we should actually emulate understand character is not a sometimes thing. They practice and live these qualities of “who you are” and ultimately “what you are” on a daily basis.

I believe that these Character Traits include an approach that practices:
• Confidence carried lightly
• Leadership that engenders trust
• Passion that’s contagious
• Humor without derision
• Integrity without guile
• Character that commits
• Loyalty that holds on
• Desire that dreams
• Interest that increases knowledge

I’ve borrowed these descriptions from Robert Beaudine’s, The Power of Who, because he aptly characterizes not only the trait but also the real action and delivery attitude that accompanies that admirable leadership trait.

The next time that you see a leader or a leadership action defined as being stellar… see if they have brought that level of commitment to their action or their suggested business strategy. This is the true measure of great leadership.

The Performance Detective

1 comment:

  1. Leadership for the future: diversity, creativity and co-creation. Values-led leaders help create emotionally.

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