Never an easy task For many years, I’ve studied leadership, why leaders fail and how they can succeed. What I’ve learned is humbling.
Leadership does not equal charisma although great leaders create great followers.
True leaders have made peace with themselves; they know their inner peace provides a path to making peace with others.
They make clear their purposes and share those purposes willingly; indeed, they know that trust is built on relationships anchored to the clarity of shared purposes.
Perhaps the most special aspect of a great leader is his or her vision. Followers are ones who trust that vision and its source. The extent to which that leader’s vision pertains to his or her followers, their wants and desires, often determines the tenure of that leader. Indeed, dynamic leaders rely on a constant flow and exchange of ideas. They encourage communication.
If those ideas are positive and attainable, followers (or constituents) will be constructively involved.
Otherwise, those supporters will seek another path; they will find, for themselves, a better leader. Or the leader, if honestly concerned with his or her competency, will step down.
That much I learned during a simple test. After spending months with the same group in a nine-month leadership training course, we were presented with a final test.
“Press the green button if you choose to follow that person. Press the red if you don’t.”
In front of each of us was a board with a bank of lights; we couldn’t see anyone cast their vote. That was hidden although the result of their vote showed on our bank of lights. For example, if no one chose to follow me, all of my lights would be red.
In essence, a green light indicated trust in that person as a leader. When the time came to vote on a specific person, that person felt their leadership traits couldn’t have been more closely scrutinized. After months spent working together, it became absolutely clear whether others valued us as leaders.
For me, the hard truth came clear: a good leader must be one who knowingly serves yet leads with clarity.
It taught me that, when followers are poorly informed, coercion and deception reign. The same is true when leaders lack the skills for the role they’ve assumed. Leadership defines us; good leaders bring out our best qualities.
Powerful nations fail without them.
B. Koplen 11/7/12
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