Leadership: Humility

January 23rd 2009

Leadership - Humility

This is the final part of a whole series on leadership.  Check the leadership introduction here for all articles in the series.

To me, leadership is often thought or even taught that it requires a person to be very pushy, aggressive and  must stand out amongst any possible competition. I’ve focused this series on looking at how leadership fits an individual, not how an individual has to fit leadership.  This is contrary since many still believe leadership needs that commanding, loud, direct personality with the best track record, skills and talents to make things happen.  Well I say, "Bah!!!"  That isn’t what leadership is at all!  A leader is not necessarily any better, smarter, or more skilled than others.  A leader does however, have influence and impact with others.  This unique capability doesn’t have to be a trade off for a compassionate personality or a label of someone with an "ego".  Leadership can be done with great humility and I believe it requires humility to truly be a great leader.  You don’t have to give up any bit of your personality to be leader, you can be a leader in your own way.  The problem is, it’s easy to lose your humility in achievement so this final topic on leadership is about staying humble with leadership.

"What should it profit a man if he would gain the whole world yet lose his soul." (Mark 8:36)

Humble Leadership

I’ve written several times about humble leadership both looking at what humility is and what I think it means to truly lead.  You might want to check out these previous articles for more on that.Being Humble: Leadership and Why Bothering to Be Humble? (or as Being Humble Series PDF download from the free resources page).

Even if you’ve read those before I’ll explore a little more what this humility means from the leadership perspective.

There are many leaders that think being a leader is about taking charge, having authority or a position to tell others what to do or to win influence over others because of self accomplishment.  That isn’t leadership, it’s power and they are two very different things.  If you want to be seen as a leader, stand out or emerge as a leader in your work or life, then likely that stems more from the desire of power than it does from leadership.  Leadership is nothing about you, it’s about others.

Humility is when you can remove the status and personal gains from what you do as a leader and begin to look only at what you accomplish in the lives of those who follow you.  You know that any accomplishment or changes come about through those you lead and without them, you are nothing. It’s about recognizing others before yourself and taking a far step away from any ego and closer to a compassionate and genuine concern to make others around you better and able to do more.  That is humble leadership my friends.

Blending Willpower and Humility

Willpower is a massive part of being a leader and having a strong will to improve things and change is what shapes the role of many leaders.  They can use that will through difficult times, to get through impossible situations and to inspire others like no one could ever hope to accomplish without the same willpower.  Blending that together with humility that a leader should have from knowing he needs others to accomplish anything will enable them as a much stronger leader.  Putting willpower at work towards the people being led progresses things even faster creating a much more loyal group of followers.  All of a leader’s efforts and willpower should be spent and shared with others to ensure they experience it first hand and are empowered by it themselves.  The blend of these abilities allows a leader to instil their own extreme level of will to all their followers.  Having a strong will without humility can easily (without even intending it), build on a leader’s ego and be a very negative influence to others.

I learned this first hand several years ago in dealing with what I considered (at the time) people who couldn’t get the job done right.  I had the will power to want to do it faster and push the deadlines, but doing this by either saying or demonstrating (I made the mistake of doing both) that I could in fact do it faster did nothing to help me emerge as a leader of people.  It made me look strong in my skills, yes, but the people I had to work with didn’t see this as helpful or as leading them in any way.  Instead, it was very intimidating and quite a negative impact on them.  The damage that this has done is obvious now that I have learned from that experience.  I now see this in others as well and know better than to put my willpower to work for myself, because it does nothing.  Instead, when I put my willpower to empowering others, encouraging them, and working to help and convince them that our plans will work, are achievable and that we will all succeed, I can take them much further without ever a mention of my own abilities.  Blending humility with willpower is one of those areas that makes a difference between good leaders and great leaders.

Willpower is very useful for facing difficult situations, such as:

  • to drive through low standards
  • face mediocrity with a helping hand
  • eliminate failure

Staying ambitious among a team and organization as a leader while remaining modest and non-boastful is what humble leadership is all about.  I dare say it’s the highest level of leadership, the most rewarding and it makes the biggest most lasting impact a leader can make.

Build Others

Leadership will always be about others and a great leader puts much attention towards that.  Whether it is for skill development, filling a gap, enhancing areas for even better results or for succession planning, building others is done best by humble leaders.  People want to learn from someone that doesn’t think they know it all or are better than you.  Staying humble while training and giving advice is an easy way to ensure they stay interested and lets you not only build their leadership skills, but also their confidence.  That’s because a humble leader will also encourage a person and credit them often.  They can encourage a person to realize that they have their own talents and skills within their capabilities and that the teacher (humble leader) just helps to surface and release those skills. Compare that to a egotistic style sounding like this, "Just do what I tell you to do, I’ve been there and already know best how to do it!".  Would you want to learn from someone like that?  Would it give you much self confidence?  I doubt it.

Leadership should also ensure that there is some level of succession planning.  The things that the leader does on their own should be eliminated, as it is a single point of failure among a group.  To get the best results from any team, there should not be a single point of failure and there should be built in through skills an inherent flexibility when it comes to resources.  The leader should look to build others’ with leadership skills the particular areas they do themselves so that ultimately they could be replaced.  Many fear this approach as they think it can put other candidates in place for their role and put themselves as risk.  It does in some ways, but from a leadership perspective, not really.  First of all, the best thing that a great leader could possible accomplish is to lead a group to be self contained and able to produce the amazing results and drive for accomplishment on their own.  A leader who can do this is extremely valuable, as they are a producer of leaders themselves.  You can lead anywhere if you have the ability to produce more leaders in doing so.  Listing that kind of value on your resume and portfolio has impact!

Servant Leadership

Finally I come to servant leadership. It’s foundation is humility and means that you put others first, above yourself consistently.  You’ll end up doing the things you don’t want to do and you’ll take any consequences away from others to relieve them.  These could be things like taking blame, sacrifice of work hours or giving up credit even when it is due.  And this isn’t done when convenient, it’s consistent!

There are many ways that servant leaders lead, and it is usually obvious in their humility.  Here are just a few:

  • Will always take someone else’s suggestion or idea over their own
  • They don’t ever need to get their own way
  • They never argue to be right about something, they immediately close it and say, "you may be right"
  • They hold their own opinion and let other’s share first
  • Want and query the opinion of others often
  • Appreciate what they have and are given
  • Never make excuses, they simply accept responsibility (even if it isn’t theirs to accept)
  • Will carry out any task, no matter how tedious
  • Are happy to help others with anything

Servant leadership is based on love and help to others.  A servant leader demonstrates this in every action they do, which is how they lead, by doing.  I personally believe this is not only a noble way to lead, but a godly one.  It was taught by the only perfect servant leader, Jesus Christ and is a powerful humbling way to lead.  Learning this takes life experience (often the hard way by learning what NOT to do) and by studying and reflecting on other humble leaders.  What makes them humble, how do you measure or judge someone’s humility.  How far would you take things to be humble and for who?

Learning to be more humble requires great attention and a change in your character traits to relate more closely to human relationships and lasting endeavors in life that includes others.  Look to read more on servant leadership from leaders who have made great sacrifices and lead by love.  They are not the typical top CEOs or the celebrity leaders that get the most publicity, they are the quiet, graceful and often missed leaders that leave the greatest impact of the hearts of many once they are gone.

Please add your comments, please add your thoughts and I’d love to hear what you have to say about this article as the last in this series and the series as a whole.  Hold nothing back.  What did you love, what did you hate?  What was missing?  I appreciate any comments you have to offer!  And if you read this far and liked the article or series, please add a stumble review to help share it for me.  Thanks!

Posted by Mike King under Success | 22 Comments »

Leadership: Give Direction

January 21st 2009

Leadership - Give Direction

True leadership is about taking people to a place that they would not go to by themselves.  Good leaders provide that by delivering and demonstrating purpose, direction, goals and guidance that is well beyond a supervising role alone.  These are the areas that I feel make direction vital to leadership.

Planning and Communication

Direction cannot be given if it is not known by the leader in the first place.  And a leader cannot lead if they don’t give a direction for people to follow them.  This creates a big requirement to do something about that by using techniques, tools and resources to provide and develop that direction.

  • Vision and Mission
  • Problem Analysis
  • Brainstorming
  • Big Picture Thinking
  • Goal Setting
  • Involving Others

A leader must take time to plan, think and figure out the direction to steer things.  This is not something that is obvious and often the things that seem most obvious tend to be very short sighted with no long term advantages.  There is much to consider by a leader for direction and this comes by all the tools listed above and a variety of resources.  Direction is certainly not something that should be created by one person (although it can), it is better to use other people’s ideas, hopes and plans in developing a single direction that the leader can use for everyone involved.  All of this data from brainstorming sessions, ideas from other individuals, through research, experience or simply grand hopes with visionary ideas needs to be assessed by a leader.  Don’t rush this process and make sure that you consider many components of a planned direction.

Ask yourself questions to challenge the direction and make sure you cover all facets of it to everyone involved.

  • Does this direction align with the values of those participating?
  • What new skills and training will be required to take this route?
  • Are there examples or case studies that can be used to model an approach in this direction?
  • Are those involved able to accept the changes needed for this?
  • Do you have the resources needed to achieve it?
  • Is it something that everyone can believe in?
  • How will you know that people are following this direction?
  • Can you clearly indicate and describe this planned direction?
  • Who will be the people most in favor and in doubt of this direction?
  • What kind of contingency can you plan for in dealing with resistance or troubles?

These are just a few samples of the types of questions you need to ask yourself to ensure you evaluate as much of the situation as possible.  You certainly don’t need to have answers for all of these when planning and setting a new direction, but you should understand what the most difficult areas and unknowns will be to help prepare any followers.  That is where communication then plays a huge role.

Leadership - Give Direction
Leadership – Give Direction

Photo Credit: Lumax.com

Communicating during this planning stage with others is vital to ensure you consider their ideas and concerns within the plans and directions you decide on.  Involve others as much as possible to keep them included and engaged with the decisions you make.  Then once you do finally have the direction planned and decided on, it requires continual communication to ensure it is well understood and followed.  Ask questions of others to ensure they understand the plans and the big picture of the contribution they can make individually.  It is far easier to lead by ensuring others know your vision so communicate, communicate, communicate!

Course Correction

Leadership is not only about leading in a specific direction, it is also about correcting and steering things back on the right direction when they do get off track.  I touched on this in my Persistence article in my Productivity Series that you are really continually steering things with minor adjustments back on track as a leader.  However, there time when things have gotten so off course, it is no longer just a simple course correction.  There are times to abandon a route altogether and choose an alternate path.  A leader must recognize when an individual is heading down a path that is off course and not in the right direction.  Running with ideas might seem like the right path but often it leads you further away or way of course from the direction that you have planned.  When this occurs, whether is the leader themselves or someone working with that leader, it is the leader’s role to correctly steer things back on course.  This can be difficult to do in a way that doesn’t break any respect or trust developed.

"Everybody can get angry – that’s easy. But getting angry at the right person, with the right intensity, at the right time, for the right reason and in the right way – that’s hard." (Aristotle)

Referring to the goals and plans outlined and discussing how things fit with that is a great way to address course corrections.  A leader should try to have an individual realize or admin they are off track instead of simply accusing them of that or telling them so.  Nobody likes to be told what to do and so this is a critical area for a leader to do exactly that, lead.  Being genuine and sincere goes a long way here when correcting someone’s course.  Showing compassion for their time and effort spent and appreciation for what they are doing while asking questions about whether it is worth doing or not is useful. You don’t want to be authoritative or a dictator when giving direction and the more you help others steer their own directions appropriately, the more you enable them to hold that path with future ideas and decisions they make.

This can be the trickiest part of leadership to keep things moving in the right direction, to stay on course yourself and to ensure that others are following the same or at least a similar helpful path.  The course corrections that are needed alone the way are continuous, will come in varying degrees and must be handled quickly and smoothly for a leader to do well.

Posted by Mike King under Success | 19 Comments »

Leadership: Accepting Mistakes

January 19th 2009

Leadership - Accepting Mistakes

Learn From Your Mistakes

Who Broke That? Mistakes are unavoidable in life and leaders certainly make their share of them.  Any time you look to break new ground or technologies or whatever it is you are leading, you open up many new avenues for mistakes and they are inevitable with change. You can’t have one without the other and so learning to use mistakes well is an important leadership trait.  The first point about mistakes is that a great leader learns from their own mistakes.  They know when they make it and will quickly look at what can be salvaged or gained from the mistake as to avoid it in the future or to streamline some action or process to improve it next time.  This makes no difference if the mistake is big or small, there is always something to be learned from it and mistakes offer an immediate piece of feedback to anyone who is wise enough to learn from it.

Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom. (Phyllis Therous)

Another point of learning from mistakes is to also be a leader in this area and actually admit your own mistakes.  Admit when you were wrong, and emphasize what you have learned from it and what your next steps are work around that mishap.  If you encourage and set the example of owning up to mistakes quickly and working past them, you can quickly inspire your followers to do the same and look at the value of the mistakes instead of hiding from them.

Leave Room for Mistakes to Happen

If you have done the first part and owned up and admitted your own mistakes you have done a great service to those following you.  You have proven that you are OK with mistakes happening as long as they are learned from.  You must do the same for others.  That is, give them room to make mistakes, make sure they know that and don’t reprimand mistakes, instead simply follow up on what they have learned and that they have put in place things to ensure it doesn’t repeat itself.  If you make sure people know that they have some room to try new things, innovate, be creative and take some risks, then the fear of making mistakes is greatly reduced.  Of course you don’t want to encourage mistakes to happen when they are avoidable, but if you give people some extra time, room and allowance to do their own steps and learn in the process, they will be much more likely to learn from them as well.  A previous article I wrote here called The Power of Making Mistakes should add some details if you are interested.

Sometime as a leader there is value is leaving a decision or process up to someone else for them to learn from it.  Even if you know the best method or the result of some idea, there is great value in promoting others’ ideas and seeing it though, even if there is a mistake bound to happen because of it.  Adopting the ideas of others and letting the mistakes guide things beyond it will quickly grow all those involved and gain a lot of trust and respect of the leader when the mistakes are OK and not constantly punished.  This fear of making mistakes is a huge contributer why people fear change, fear risk and don’t step up to their full potential, so eliminating that fear of mistakes, eliminates much of that other baggage as well.

Show me a person who has never made a mistake and I’ll show you somebody who has never achieved much. (Joan Collins)

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes, Look Beyond and Move Forward

Learning from mistakes clearly needs some analysis of the mistake itself to gain value from it.  This is certainly true and there are a few steps to use to analyze a mistake quickly and efficiently:

  1. Accept that it happened and can’t be changed.
  2. Know there is always something to learn from it.
  3. Look to understand it and the factors that caused it.
  4. How could you have recognized the mistake earlier?
  5. How can you avoid the mistake next time?
  6. Are there similar things that might have a related mistake to avoid?
  7. What has changed now to ensure that mistake doesn’t reoccur?
  8. Who else should know about this and learn from it?

So, once you have done this initial analysis of the mistake, its time to move on.  No matter how big the mistake was, just let it go and move on.  Make the changes needed to avoid it next time and make sure that everything you spend time on now in accepting the mistake is with the future in mind, not the past.  Put your focus on what you can do for next time, not what you should have done.  Ask what individuals are doing now or in the future to ensure it won’t repeat itself and remind people to think of ways to avoid the similar event.  All these actions will move you forward and enable you to quickly adapt and deal with similar situations in the future even better and hopefully you will never make the same mistake again!

Accepting Mistakes - Help Get Past Them
Accepting Mistakes – Move On

Photo Credit: hellophotokitty @ flickr

When you focus on the improvements and lessons learned from a mistake you reinforce the ability to make mistakes part of the process and something that is accepted as long as it improves things.  There is no value in worrying about the mistake or dwelling on it after it is done.  So, move on!

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. (Elbert Hubbard)

Mistakes to Avoid as a Leader

So, while all this encouraging of mistakes and learning from them are important as a leader to make some room for, they obviously need to be balanced and still minimized whenever possible ahead of time, especially when the risks are high.  There are also some mistakes that will immediately set you back as a leader if you make them so knowing these and avoiding them is a big help in leadership.  Here are my top 10 mistakes you can make as a leader so definitely areas to!

  1. Pull the power or authority card
  2. Do the work yourself because you are faster or better
  3. Point the blame finger
  4. Focus on tasks instead of results
  5. Avoid change
  6. Don’t listen to or accept others’ ideas
  7. Complain or be negative
  8. Hoard everything for job security
  9. Claim or take any credit
  10. Not showing appreciation

Posted by Mike King under Success | 29 Comments »

Leadership: Willingness to Take Risks

January 16th 2009

Leadership - Willing to Take Risks

Leadership always requires some level of risk taking.  Risks are necessary to make changes happen and there will always be both personal risk, risk to followers as well as to the organization or group involved.  The areas where risks are the most important to a leader are what I’ll outline below.

Comfort Zones

Comfort zones are really the perfect opposite or risks.  They are the decisions and ways of doing things that have the least risks, the least unknowns and are easy for you to do.  They do NOT have any risk.  These are bad for leaders and a leader should never let these comfort zones dominate them.  Having a willingness to take on risks means also to have a willingness to step outside your comfort zone .  Anyone who is too afraid to step outside their comfort zone is also too afraid to take the risks that are often needed as a leader.  This is an important point as at least in this aspect, leadership is something to easily test for and I think this is often missed when employers or groups look for leaders.  If an individual is give up comforts and ease to move towards and tackle the next challenge, they surely show great signs of leadership.

Comfort zones are everything from an individual’s daily routine, to their lifestyle, to their work environment and habits or roles in their life and job.  All of these things that are repetitive and lasting become comfortable and only the new things in life really make things change over time.

Challenge

Challenge is the next component when examining how to take risks.  Challenge is really the part of any risk that keeps us from it.  It is what makes it difficult and what steers most people away from it.  However, challenge is the whole point of taking risks.  It’s the challenge itself that you learn from, develop skills from and improve not only yourself as a leader but all the people you lead through the challenge as well. There isn’t any point to making things a challenge for no good reason so it’s about taking on the right challenges and calculating risks to a point that justifies them when compared to the challenge that is faced to accomplish them.  If there are ways to reduce the risk, avoid the risk or make the challenge less with the same outcome, then that is absolutely the path to lead people down.  However, sometimes the willingness to take a risk even when the challenge is great, is exactly what a leader needs to do to show courage and ability to get through a difficult situation.

Taking Risks

Taking Risks

These decisions by a leader as to when to take a challenge on or not and accept the risks is a cue that followers will carefully assess themselves.  The emotions of the decision maker, the reasoning behind it and the considerations they take involving others are what followers are learning from when facing any challenge.  A great leader makes these decisions transparent and does it with a moral basis, emotional attachment and passion to drive past the problem.

Innovation

Taking risks is done with some purpose in mind as well.  There isn’t any point in taking risks that don’t pay off.  There are however, hundreds of things that require risks in order to make them happen.  Innovation is a big one of those.  Innovation is when you look for new ways of doing things, building things or perhaps new ideas being realized as a product.  This requires breaking new ground that no one has done before and so there are always risks involved. People and companies who are unwilling to take risks will become stagnant with no ability to innovate or change.  In the forever changing world we live in today, innovation is required to lead people well.  It enables change and opens opportunities that were impossible to see before the change occurred.

Innovation is not the job only of the leader.  For innovation to happen at all levels and from followers as well, a leader must look to steer what is needed for a change or direction, but should never limit how to come about doing that.  The adversity that exists in a team is far greater than any leader will ever have and so the possibilities and ideas generated from the whole group are always more than the leader could generate on their own.  For this reason, it is especially important for a leader to not only allow innovation at all levels, but encourage and promote it as well.  This will bring forth more ideas, more possibilities and enable more people amongst the followers to start having practice and interest in the decisions, risks and change as well.  That personal interest that a leader generates among any followers is key to enabling a lasting improvement system or continuous change system.

Confidence

Confidence is huge for a leader to not only have but also to demonstrate. Building up confidence to make difficult decisions requires some history or track record of decision making as well.  A great leader looks at all the decisions they have made and either learns from the ones that were mistakes or reinforces the factors that contributed to the good ones.  This gives them confidence that they are making the best decision they can at the time.  This fact alone that it is about the best decision possible at that time is what enables that confidence to be utilized.  It is not that the decision has to turn out to be the best in the end.  Often, more information or progress through a challenge, will reveal a different decision to be best and it’s not until this point that that can really be evaluated.

Many people fear making that initial decision with the fear that it may be wrong so they need to evaluate and attempt to consider all possible options without ever making a decision.  There is always more information available and it is easy to get stuck in information paralysis where you do nothing and just continually analyze the possibilities.  A leader needs to have confidence that an early decision can progress things faster, even if that decision is wrong or needs to be changed later on.  The risks can still be minimized by having option, alternate paths and a reasonable level of consideration, but the decision does need to be made and a leader must be confident in it to lead others toward that path as well.  Others will likely have their own doubts about an early decision and many would prefer to spend more time before deciding on a route to follow.  A leader must show their confidence in an obvious way to convince these people who are still waffling about the decision that it is OK to proceed with it now.  This is the kind of confidence necessary.

Confidence has it’s drawbacks as well so needs to be shown carefully.  A leader definitely should not show confidence that comes across as arrogance.  Be confident in the ability to get through problems, to make the change happen and in your ability to lead.  Do not show the confidence that you are right about the decisions or that you will not fail.  Failure is just a quick way to learn and so a leader should be quick to change when a decision is wrong, be open about it and abmit the mistake and then turn around and again be confident that you can immediately use that mistake to move forward in a better direction and that you will in fact still achieve the results desired.  Great confidence in the process, your followers and your ability to change quickly are what will enable you to take on risks willingly and be a strong leader.

Posted by Mike King under Success | 19 Comments »

Leadership: Know Yourself and Your Capabilities

January 9th 2009

Leadership - Know Yourself and Your Capabilities

This next topic about leadership takes what you know from the last article (Leadership – Understanding What It Is ) and looks at how those areas of leadership can be utilized within the boundaries of your own personality and capabilities.

Don’t Fake Who You Are, Just Be You

The last thing you should do to be a leader is to pretend you are something you are not.  You should never fake or display a specific personality in order to be seen as a leader.  A lot of people do this thinking that leadership is automatic if you have a specific set of personal characteristics but that is simply not true.  The individual person and unique personality makes more of the leader than any specific qualities or character traits.  Leadership is something that has to come from the person you truly are.  Now that can be changed over time which I’ll cover more in a later article but you can’t fake it without a genuine change in your core values and beliefs.

So of course bringing up values and beliefs is an important part of knowing yourself and that extends deeply into a leader’s character.  One trait that I’ve learned that is common of great leaders is that they hold true their values and beliefs.   This is only possible if you actually know those values, display them and let other people see them revealed by your actions.  Many traits are related to this core principle and that is why I believe you cannot pinpoint specific characteristics.  These 4 are the ones that stand out the most for me in someone who holds true their values:

  • Integrity
  • Honest
  • Courage
  • Confidence

“No man is fit to command another that cannot command himself.” (William Penn)

Know Your Limits

Not only is it important to know some of the principles your character is built upon, it’s also important to know your limitations and what you are not.  Leadership has many stereotyped expectations and there is little to gain by trying to fit some area that just doesn’t suit you.  The different styles of leaders need to fit your personality and you shouldn’t force yourself to portray characteristics you simply don’t have.  Yet.  The limits you have now are certainly something that can change with time but leadership is hard enough in areas you are good at, let alone attempting to falsely mold yourself (mold removal North York) into areas you know are beyond your limits and capabilities.

Be Open About Your Capabilities

There is nothing wrong with being open and honest about where your leadership skills fall short.  Honesty in addressing your capabilities are a sure way to gain a trusting and respectful eye from others and helps to stay far away from the perception that you have a big ego (a leader’s natural arch-nemesis).  A leader will not only recognize their own limits and inabilities, they will look to find new ways to fill those gaps.  A mindset to support continuous improvement and admittance of needing help with that is important as it allows a leader to accept imperfections in themselves and in people with their own shortcomings.

Self-Analysis Tools

Whether you think you know yourself well or not, it’s very helpful to use various techniques and resources to self assess where you are at as a leader, what style you have and what skills or capabilities you need to put priority attention to for improvement.  Personality tools can be helpful here but since I believe that powerful leadership can occur from any personality type, they tend not to look enough at action and influence with others, which is where leadership really counts.  I have found these techniques to work best for getting an accurate self assessment when it comes to leadership.

Talk to Close Friends and Family

You can always trust your closest friends or family to be brutally honest with you but keep in mind they might not ever tell you anything bad thing about you, until you ask.  So, ask!  Be specific to ask about leadership traits and how they see you leading.  If you have little experience ask how they feel you would lead best if given the opportunity.  Does it match your own ideas?

Colleagues

Ask your peers, your boss and any mentors or role models you may have for them to give you an honest opinion about how you express your values and what leadership characteristics they see and don’t see you demonstrating.  Remember it’s not the knowledge, it’s the practice of what you can demonstrate.  Use the same specific questions as with close friends or family here.  Ask specifically about leadership.  You might want to look at leadership in a specific role for your workplace or future role.

Surveys

There are hundreds of surveys available online, in books, at seminars or in courses that you can take to help evaluate yourself.  Here is one simple but very useful survey I found online to help evaluate what your natural leadership style is .  From the same site, here is a survey to assess how you are doing as a leader now. There are many more online if you do some searching, these are only a quick starting place.

I’d love to hear about any other tools, resources and methods you have used or can suggest to evaluate yourself and your leadership skills.

Posted by Mike King under Success | 32 Comments »

Leadership: Understanding What It Is

January 7th 2009

In order to understand leadership it is important to realize that leadership is not about a specific set of traits or characteristics.  It is about trust, relationships and guidance between someone leading and others following.

Many studies have been done and none have led to any definitive list of attributes that one must have to be a good leader.  However, leadership does have a series of actions and behaviors which is what I hope to focus on in this series.

Qualities Of Leadership

While there are not specific characteristics that define a leader, there are a number of qualities of leadership that can be seen valuable in leaders.  These include integrity, honesty, humility, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, confidence, positivity, wisdom, determination, compassion, sensitivity, and a degree of personal charisma.  These are not things that make a leader, but they tend to be some of the qualities of a leader and are often shown by their actions.

Leadership Style

Leadership doesn’t require or expect you to behave in a specific way or have a pre-defined set of leadership qualities either.  It has many styles and the only really important thing about leadership styles that is important to know is that you must practice your own style.  You cannot copy someone else’s or learn a specific style, it must be something that comes natural for you.  There is no right or wrong style and so you must embrace a style that works for you as a leader and one that you can value.

Some of the styles are based similarly to personality styles or behavior based styles, such as the Meyers Briggs (take a free test here ) or DiSC (more info here ) profiling models, respectively. There seems to be three main styles of leadership:

  • Authoritarian / autocratic
  • Participative / democratic
  • Delegative / free-reign

Good leaders will use all three styles depending on every situation with only a minor bias to their natural style.  Poor leaders will generally stick with one style and not adjust for different situations limiting their influence greatly.

Regardless of the style applied, a leader’s approach can be one with a focus on rewards that are positive to motivate or they may use penalties to frighten (which is also a motivator) action.

Lead By Ideas

While leadership is largely about behavior, that behavior will never be different from others’ without the ability to act on new ideas.  A leader’s ideas direct their actions, decisions and new behaviors.  Ideas are the only way to challenge things we currently do and belief and a great leader is able to shift and motivate people from a static life to one of great transformation changing views, beliefs and values.  All these changes ultimately lead to new actions which is what leadership is driving to change!

Ideas are what enables a leader, as its ideas that are forceful to others and its ideas that will engage others to see from new perspectives and take on new possibilities.  These ideas are how a leader finds its followers and how they find a new path to follow.

Leadership

So, to me leadership is about inspiring and motivating others either deliberately or passively by your own way of doing things.  It is about steering not only your own path towards something, but also the path of any number of followers that value something about you enough to follow.  The variations here are endless but all leadership requires this at some level.

What would you add to help someone better understand what leadership is?

Please continue reading the next article in this series.  Leadership: Know Yourself and Your Capabilities

Posted by Mike King under Success | 23 Comments »

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