In today’s culture it’s easy to believe that leaders “stand out” based on external or easily observed qualities.
It may be their physical presence or command of a room as they speak. It may be the way that they always seem to be “in control” no matter what the situation.
Over the next several weeks, I’d like to share a few “hidden qualities” of exceptional leaders that I have observed over the years. These are character traits or sometimes skills that have been developed or refined through years of pursuing the uncommon pathway to excellence.
The first hidden quality is that of authenticity. If there’s one characteristic that is demanded by next generation leaders and appreciated by every segment of leaders its authenticity.
The digital age in which we find ourselves makes it very easy to become somebody else, someone who you’re not. Facebook and Twitter and numerous other social media outlets give us a platform to create a persona that is not who we really are….
Many American presidents have made an impact on our country as great communicators. Some examples are John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. But only one president was actually called “the great communicator”, and that was Ronald Reagan.
Reagan was a good executive because he possessed a clear vision, made decisions easily, surrounded himself with leaders with complementary skills, and delegated very effectively. But he was a great leader because of his uncanny ability to communicate. When it came to leading the country, people knew who he was, where he stood, what he wanted, and they couldn’t wait to get on board with him. His ability to communicate effectively made him the kind of leader people wanted to follow.
You may not aspire to be president, but every leader still needs strong communication skills. The success of your marriage, job, and personal relationships depend on it. People will not follow you if they don’t know what you want or where you are going.
Here I continue what I started last week, the 12 great principles of communication:…
“What’s one thing you can know for sure about a turtle on a fencepost?”
I first heard this question my freshman year in college. It’s a question that is intended to inspire a journey into a multitude of questions and infinite unknowns. The question makes you wonder about meaning, purpose, and sacrifice. The answer to the question, however, sounds like a punchline to a joke, and, like so many other punchlines, it holds deep meaning.
“So, what is one thing you can know for sure about a turtle on a fencepost,” you ask?…
Much is written about the need to “persevere” in just about any kind of pursuit, but I believe this is especially true when it comes to leadership.
When you are in a place of influence of others and obstacles continue to block your path for a long period of time, people begin to wonder if anything is going to happen, if someone’s going to break the stalemate, if the obstacles will ever be overcome. That’s what leaders are known to do. They make things happen when it appears that it’s not going to be so.
Last evening, 3-12-13, the Pittsburgh Penguins played 53 minutes of scoreless hockey and were being written off by the national sports casters as not having their game in gear that night as they were about to be shut-out by the Boston Bruins. With less than seven minutes left, winger Chris Kunitz made a goal which cut the lead to 2-1. Remember, the Penguins had not scored in the first 53 minutes and were still 1 goal behind. All Boston had to do was continue to keep the puck in the Penguins end of the ice for the remaining 6+ minutes and the game would be over….
In my prior post, I proposed that leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character. How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character. Crisis doesn’t always mold character, but it certainly does reveal it. And adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. So it takes real courage to have character. Where does this courage come from?
Courage begins with an inner battle. Every test you face as a leader begins within you. The test of courage is not different. All significant battles are waged within one’s self. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It is having the power to let go of the familiar and forge ahead into new territory. Courage is fear that has said its prayers. Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” Great leaders take a stand when needed. Courage is making things right, not just smoothing them over. Courage deals with principle, not perception. If you don’t have the ability to see when to stand up and the conviction to do it, you’ll never be an effective leader. Your dedication to principle must remain stronger than your desire to appease others….
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that people approach the responsibility of leadership in many different ways. It’s not unlike the way some of us head into the crashing waves of the ocean.
I know that for me, if the water’s warm enough, I head right into the waters and as soon as I know I’m deep enough into the breakers I go head first and just get soaked. My wife Carol, on the other hand, prefers to simply let the water touch her toes, and after a while her ankles, and then eventually her knees and then perhaps 20 minutes later she may go fully under! (From where I see things, hers is the most painful way to experience it and yet, she hasn’t changed in the four decades that I’ve known her!)
I have found people embrace leadership in the same way. There are some that look carefully at the circumstances and then with little prodding make a dramatic leap head first into the opportunity or challenge that’s before them. They don’t care about the initial shock of pain or perceived responsibility, they just want to get on with it and get the job done….
Leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character. And yet, while a leadership position doesn’t give a person character, character can give him a leadership position. How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character. Crisis doesn’t necessarily mold character, but is certainly does reveal it. Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. It takes real courage to have character. Every time a leader chooses character, he becomes stronger, even if that choice brings negative consequences. The development of character is at the heart of our development as leaders. Character is the foundation on which a leader builds his or her life. It all begins with character, because leadership operates on the basis of trust. People will follow a leader only so far as they trust him or her….
There are many bases for leadership: positional, relational, knowledge/information, performance, etc. But real, lasting leadership tends to be based upon influential relationships. Previously, I listed 5 common misunderstandings about leadership. If those misunderstandings are examples of what leadership is not, then what personal qualities do make a great leader?
I started answering that question last week in What Personal Qualities Do Great Leaders Have? (Part 1). Here now are the final 4 of my “Top 10” personal qualities for a leader:…
This is a complex question. I have been a student of leadership for many years and there is a plethora of theories and models concerning what good leadership looks like. As I have blogged before, Leadership is Influence. There are many bases for leadership: positional, relational, knowledge/information, performance, etc. But real, lasting leadership tends to be based upon influential relationships.
In my last blog post, I listed 5 Common Misunderstandings About Leadership. If those misunderstandings are examples of what leadership is not, then what personal qualities do make a great leader? Here are the first 6 of my “Top 10” personal qualities for a great leader:…