Leaders show certain traits, skills and habits to those they lead. Some leaders exhibit some of them more than others, but all leaders consistently behave like leaders. In short, they do what leaders do.
Like any role, leadership is based on knowledge, skill and attitude. We can all gain new knowledge and learn new skills – or hone what we already have. In this series of articles we will explore the knowledge and skills that define leadership.
Leaders Know Where They Want to Get to
The origin of the word leader is the way. Leaders know where they want to get to, and they know they must bring their team and their customers with them. They then work out the best way to get there. This is the power behind a corporate philosophy, vision and mission statement.
Too many mission statements are words on a sheet of paper. A corporate philosophy, a company’s vision of its own future, and the mission everyone sets out on to make that future a reality must be a living, breathing, encompassing, defining, set of standards, goals, acceptable practice and actions. Leaders are on a mission. Leaders know where they want to get to.
Leaders Stay Focused
Once the vision is clear, the end goals, performance goals and process goals for the company, for each department and function, and for each individual team member become powerful things. Leaders focus on them, and they stay focused on them. Every project, activity and action must meet those standards the leader has set out. The leader puts systems in place to monitor, manage, review, improve or (where needed) correct each of them. Leaders also make sure the systems can all be justified in terms of those standards, so everyone buys in and adopts them in their daily actions. Leaders focus on keeping the whole team on track.
Leaders Are Believed and are Believable
Anyone can fake it, but not everyone makes it. Leaders who really believe in their vision of how they want their company to be, and how they want their team members, customers, prospects and competitors to see them, are believed when they speak and act. Leaders who stay focused on their “Big Why” and who show a level of integrity that endures, are totally believable. When they praise, coach, counsel, criticize and discipline, and when they announce new plans and new challenges, they are believed. When they relate everything they say and do back to the company’s standards, and the customers’ expectations, then everything they say and do is taken on board by others.
Leadership is not inborn. Some people may, as Winston Churchill said, be born great, but most of us achieve greatness. We achieve it by behaving like leaders – by knowing what constitutes leadership, and by honing the right skills.
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