Friday, April 8, 2011

KeFactors Friday: How Does a Leader Behave?

L for loneliness.

This is the first self-reflection and decision every leader faces. Major Dick Winters (portrayed in “Band of Brothers”) reflected that he did not hang out with his men. He loved the men under his command, but maintained distance and detachment. Leadership can be an isolated and isolating role, so I always tell young and emerging leaders you can either be popular, or you can be a leader, but you can’t have both.

E for execution.

Sooner or later, action must be taken; plans must be executed. Leaders zero in on the deliverables, and how those can be achieved. Without this driving sense of execution, all you have is “panel discussion.”

A for acuity.

They’re visionary and intellectual; they like to see things evolve from one stage to the next. Leaders often see things others can’t; they maintain the proverbial “bigger picture” in their heads. Not everyone who “gets it” is a leader; but every effective leader I know is a person who “gets it.”

D for delegation.

Leaders understand delegation is for the greater good, not merely a mechanism of authority. Sure, it may be easier to just do the task yourself, but if you delegate, there’s substantial group learning to be gained. And it’s important to delegate tasks to the right individuals. Also, a strong leader understands that each of us needs time and space to use our imagination and creativity when asked to do a job, so once a task is delegated, they leave you alone to do it (which may be why my favorite leaders have not been micromanagers).

E (again) for ego.

Outsized egos may appear commanding, but egotistical leaders don’t last: sooner or later, their narcissism creates relationship failures. Seasoned leaders do not let power or authority go to their heads, and they don’t worry about who receives the credit. If they receive credit as an individual, they’ll quickly refer to the team effort.

R for respect, reflection, and resilience.

Again, I defer to Dick Winters, whose men often said they’d happily follow him into hell:

    • You win respect not because of rank or position, but because you’re a leader of character.
    • Look in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
    • Hang tough! Never, ever, give up.

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