Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Seven Attributes of A Leader

I believe the ideal leader uses a Democratic or participative leadership style where the leader offers guidance/coaching to the team, but also participates in the group, and promotes feedback from other members. This style is not inconsistent with the view of everyone in a group acting as a leader! The democratic style is also suitable for the flat organizational structures of companies today. It allows for dealing with fast-changing circumstances and an entrepreneurial spirit needed in an increasingly competitive world. Speed, Creativity is needed to win in a competitive world but accountability and strong fiscal responsibility are critical and entrepreneurs understand this better the bureaucrats. The authoritarian or delegative leaderships styles common in the past and unfortunately still are very harmful and obsolete in constantly changing world.

The central theme of my personal leadership style is based on the requirements of: Integrity – the golden rule is always a good guide.  Teamwork – cooperation and playing nice. And Loyalty – both to the organization and leadership.  With those requirements as the foundation I propose the following seven Leadership attributes required to succeed.

1. Fellowship: A leader breathes through their team. A true leader knows how to work in groups, and should try to understand the problems of other workers. In solid performing groups, solidarity among members is a symmetrical relation. Solidarity is the first step a leader should take in order to gain the respect and attention of her teammates. Leaders exhibit strong confidence in the ability of the other members of the group to meet the work’s expectations. Listen ----

2. Humility: A leader exerts leadership almost unconsciously, without giving importance to the whole leading concept. Leaders don’t show as leaders… they act as leaders. Leaders keep the participative environment of the group, and always do their work with the idea of participating in a collective project. Group and collective are keywords for leaders. The idea of isolated leaders is an obnoxious fallacy. Any person appointed to a managerial position acquires the power to command and enforce obedience by virtue of the authority of her position. Nevertheless, leaders don’t enforce obedience… they earn it. Modesty keeps the leader from exerting the very tenuous “position” leadership coming from a title. The true leadership is NOT associated with positions of authority (but obviously the converse has to be true if the organization is to succeed.)

3. Courage: Leaders know themselves, and exhibit a complete domain over their behavior. Moreover, leaders know which tasks are at their reach, and don’t set unrealistic goals. This way, leaders know what their virtues and limits are, and they don’t hide them. Self-confidence gives the force to be persistent to attain the task and vision. Remember that more often than not, leadership implies defying the established order, the status quo. Therefore, self-confidence is vital to success.

4. Initiative: Leaders are proactive, not reactive. I had a manager that only waited and acted upon receiving orders from his superiors, strictly following the (frequently wrong) boss’ guidelines. Not only this behavior is inefficient for the business, but it harms the role-modeling aspect of leaders. Workers and teammates tend to identify with the values of their superiors, and no company wants this kind of passive attitude to be learned by its workers.

5. Creativity: A true leader is always looking for ways to develop their creativity to its maximum. Here, the vision of the leader is very important. Outstanding leaders articulate: a working framework congruent with the values of the other members of the group, efficient and effective ways to completing the assigned task, and ways to match the sub-activities with the members’ interests and experience.

6. Passion: The leader never stops learning, and displays a high level of consciousness. Leaders’ actions signal the way for their teammates. Leaders take responsibility for each of their choices and decisions without blaming others or looking for lame excuses. Leaders exhibit a passion for their work, and are faithful to their visions and beliefs. They engage in excellent behavior and make outstanding self-sacrifices in the interest of their group, if necessary.

Summarizing these 6 attributes, we will reference Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader, which clearly distinguishes between managers (a typical position of authority, but not necessarily occupied by a leader) and real leaders:
  • Managers administer - Leaders innovate
  • Managers ask how and when - Leaders ask what and why
  • Managers focus on systems - Leaders focus on people
  • Managers do things right - Leaders do the right things
  • Managers maintain - Leaders develop
  • Managers rely on control - Leaders inspire trust
  • Managers have a short-term perspective - Leaders have a longer-term perspective
  • Managers accept the status-quo - Leaders challenge the status-quo
  • Managers have an eye on the bottom line - Leaders have an eye on the horizon
  • Managers imitate - Leaders originate
  • Managers emulate the classic good soldier - Leaders are their own person
  • Managers copy - Leaders show originality

 7. Symbolism: For me, this is the most important trait, which projects and summarizes all the other attributes. The leader is a symbol. Leaders are oriented to their work (and not to their self-exaltation), they are a symbol of the group, which may easily mean that they are a symbol of your company. This way, leaders constitute an external (and internal!) representation of your business. And, as we all should want the best representation and the best results for our company. I like to work with leaders – the kind that people want to follow not have to follow - True leaders!

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