The Essence of True Leadership
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 11:41 AM

The Essence of True Leadership

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 11:41 AM
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 11:41 AM



I teach leadership across the country to various groups and organizations and one thing I emphasize wherever I speak - leadership is not merely a matter of ability, but a matter of heart.

Ability in the etymological sense is essential, but alone neither qualifies nor equips a leader to impact their world or transform an environment. Ability alone is not enough, neither is education or experience.

The human heart has attributes and functions within its four chambers unlike any other. If any of these functions fail or grow weak, the entire body grows weak and left unattended eventually dies.

The heart of a leader, comprised of the following six attributes set true leaders apart and give life through them to their team, organization or company. They are essential. Absent them, leadership grows weak and eventually causes systemic failure throughout the team or organization.

With ability as their root, these are the essential 'abilities of transformational leadership:

1. Durability  

A weak leader makes for a weak team. Any leader worth his or her salt has the rare ability to take a licking and keep on ticking.

True leaders are hewn in the quarry of adversity and forged by the fires of failure, defeat, disappointment, betrayal, criticism, personal attack, and character assassination. But they neither quit nor make excuses. They persevere. They endure.

When knocked down instead of giving up, they find the inner strength to get back up and try again – not once, not twice, but as many times necessary to reach their goals. 

You must be durable. You can’t faint, falter or take your ball and go home when someone hurts your feelings. It comes with the territory.

No leader reaches the top without battle scars and none without staying power. 

2. Approach-ability 

You can have all the ability in the world, but if you have the personality of a stump, it will stunt your professional growth.

Leaders serve and lead people. If you lack the ability to care for and connect with people, you lack the ability to lead. People like to think their leader cares and is approachable.

Empathy is innate to every great and true leader. Without it, you will come across as cold, callous, uncaring and inapproachable. 

Technical skill and ability will get you in the door, but the inability to get along with people will get you kicked out of the door or out of office.

Approach-ability is one of the most desirable and effective assets of a true leader.

If people like you, they will go the extra mile for you. If they feel you are standoffish and don't care, they may lead a covert revolt against you.

Work at being approachable, friendly, likable, and easy to talk to. These attributes will take you places where ability alone never can.

3. Reason-ability

We want what we want, but rarely do we get to have life and work on our own terms. And if a leader is prone to emotional outbursts, irrational, or volatile behavior when they don’t get their way, they invariably will be moved out of the way.

We all have hot buttons and triggers. However, true leaders have learned the art of self-control. And it is an art, particularly for those who are prone to volatility.

Talented, passionate leaders are often volatile but it must be controlled. Walk away, clam up or close up in your office until you've cooled off.

There are countless talented leaders who are canned because they are too difficult or unpredictable to work with. When no one knows with certainty which side, Jekyll or Hyde, will show up to work or to the meeting, to be on the safe side, they begin looking for reasons to let you go. Any reason will do and such behavior often gives them the out they need.

Be reasonable, because hot-headed leaders are often left in cold storage.

4. Reliability

True leaders are trustworthy and can be trusted to deliver what they say, when they say and how they say - without exception or excuse.

If you can't be trusted, you won't get far at all. It is a matter of integrity and character. A leader's reputation is built upon two things - who they are (character) and who they say they are (integrity). Together, these form your reputable reliability (i.e., reputation).

In order to be an effective leader, you must first prove to be a trustworthy leader. Ability is no good if your boss or team can’t depend on you to do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it and in the manner you say you will do it. That's how reputations, good and bad are built.

Trustworthiness is the cornerstone of your reputation.

If you know you can’t deliver, don’t promise. From start to finish, our career path is more directly tied to our reliability than our ability.

If you aren't reliable, you will never develop into a true leader and will always be passed over for someone who is - even if you have more ability.

Decide early on to be a person of integrity, a person of your word. And bust your butt to keep your word. It will be one of the best things you will ever do.

Your word will become your bond and your name will be as good as gold in a bull market.

5. Accountability

Accountable leaders don't duck the hard stuff. When they mess up, they put on their big boy and big girl pants and quickly ‘fess up. 

Accountability is about taking responsibility for not only our actions but the actions of those we lead.

Accountable leaders take the blame but never the credit.

All of us have the ability to be held accountable, but what separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls is the willingness to be held accountable. That takes uncommon courage.

We should never be too afraid, too insecure, or too high to be held to account. It’s difficult, especially for bright, secure, successful and self-assured people but being accountable makes us better.

The willingness to be held accountable may someday prove to be your saving grace. 

No matter our position, for the sake of our success and the success of our team, we all need someone to keep us in check.

6. Teach-ability

Last of all, true leaders never stop learning. They are teachable.

Ask God for a teachable spirit. A “Know-it-All” is no leader at all and will quickly fall by the wayside.

Once colleagues, constituents, friends and those we lead sense they can’t tell us anything because we know it all, they won’t tell us anything even if they know we are headed for a fall. 

Arrogance is a true leader’s greatest enemy.

The epitome of arrogance in the eyes of God and man is one who is willing to teach, but knows too much to be taught.

True leaders are 1) able 2) durable 3) approachable 4) reasonable 5) reliable 6) accountable and 7) teachable. Collectively, these are the essence of true leadership and what sets great leaders apart from the pack.

Practice them. Own them. And you never will have to demand respect - you will command it.

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