The more humble and transparent a leader is, the more effective he or she will be.
Across my leadership journey, I have worked with and for many leaders. Some were very good, some good, and some not-so-good. As I have reflected on each of those experiences, I recognized traits, skills, or abilities that each leader either possessed or was lacking. I came to identify these items as the “Key Ingredients” of a leader. In my efforts to professionally development others to lead, these became focus points, in-depth topics, and the expected outcomes.
Character is the foundational element of an effective leader. Often defined as the mental and moral qualities of a person, character is who they really are. A leader of character is one who clearly understands right and wrong, has built their life upon an established set of values and they are ingrained in their actions, words, and behaviors. People find it easy to follow a leader who exhibits strong character and is comfortable with who they are.
Humility is one of the most important ingredients a leader can possess. The arch enemy of humility is arrogance. Humility is keeping a modest view of yourself. People enjoy interacting with someone who is humble, they are easy to talk to and are keenly aware that others are more important, especially their followers. Sometimes humility is tough to teach others about. Depending on many factors in their background, often leaders become empowered by official title, position, experiences, and connections. A leader who lacks humility can make life difficult for those around them. I sometimes ask a leader who is showing a lack of humility if they have many mirrors in their home. I typically get a puzzled look back until I explain that leaders who are humble are comfortable with who they are and don’t need to see themselves to validate it.
An ingredient that has become more important as time has marched on is transparency. In the book, “Transparency Edge”, authors Barbara and Elizabeth Pagano identify the importance and value of transparency in a leader like this, “The demand for transparent, credible leadership is fast becoming a priority, and those who do not measure up will not be tolerated.” I found that being an open book was not what others wanted in a leader. What they wanted was to know that their leader was competent, honest, and effective. To give this to them, you had to employ transparency in your actions. Look around you today at the leaders you trust and those you don’t. Often, the ones you trust are very transparent in their leadership and what you see is what you get. Transparency is sought after in all circles today: business, government, and relationships. An effective leader understands its role and uses it effectively.
The best leaders are those that understand the meaning of service, those who are willing to sacrifice for their own people. ~ Simon Sinek
The ability and desire to serve others, in my opinion, is the base ingredient in an effective leader. The popular phrase is servant leadership and it follows the premise that to lead, a leader must first be able to serve others. A servant’s heart is a powerful tool in leadership and followers closely align with this style of leadership. I recently attended a retirement ceremony for a subordinate that I had not had close contact with for many years. At the ceremony I looked around for the present leaders in the organization and could only locate a couple of them. After serving for more than 35 years in the organization, I expected that a key leader from every work area would have been present to say good bye and thank her. This is a classic non-example of servant leadership; effective servant leaders are always willing to do for others.
I have saved Vision as my final key ingredient to reflect on. The ability to see the organization as it could be is a powerful skill. An effective leader can do this and is able to share that vision with the rest of the organization so they can see it too. To achieve a vision, it must be bought into by others. Vision creates and inspires passion, motivation, direction, and purpose in the organization. When a leader describes their vision to the organization an alignment takes place that is essential to overall success for the people and the organization. Leaders who lack vision are content with the status quo and I found these leaders to be very difficult to follow.
Often you hear the phrase, “put this in your leadership toolbox.” In this post, that is what I hoped to do for you. These “key ingredients” are the rules of the road of an effective leader. Last month, we accomplished a leadership checkup and refreshing these key ingredients seemed like the logical follow-on to that article. As we continue to effectively lead organizations and develop our people to be leaders, make sure you fully understand the role and necessity of each of these ingredients in your leadership. Stay strong and lead well.