What It Takes to Be a Leader
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” – Ronald Reagan
Have you noticed the lack of leadership around these days? Whether it is in government, schools or any organization, it seems that vision is lacking and many do not have a clear idea of where they are going. I don’t need to remind you (you are already aware) of how much “passing the buck” goes on these days. No one wants to take responsibility, it seems, and accountability plays second fiddle to an attitude of “taking care of self first”.
Confusion, delusion avoidism, escapism are all prominent everywhere. It really doesn’t matter what aspect of society we are talking about. This is not a “blame the government” post since we are all responsible for any government body we vote in. It is not about blaming schools or businesses or throwing out any accusations against anyone. It is a reflection of the problem and possible solutions.
Who Is the Leader?
First, we need to know what it means to be a leader. Many books have been written the subject with just as many variations. There are three sources I would like to turn to to help with the definition.
John Maxwell is unarguably the world’s top expert in leadership and has written countless books on the subject. I will talk here about the 5 Levels of Influence, which John Maxwell builds upon one after the other. They are:
Position simply refers to the title a person has such as a boss, a teacher, or a coach. Just being the bearer of a positional title does not necessarily make them a leader. It simply puts the person in a position of authority. The person may certainly have leadership skills, but these are not because of the position he or she holds.
Permission means that the person has been given permission by one or more individuals to lead in a certain capacity. They have agreed that the person is to be the leader. This b person will be followed only as long as he fulfills the expectations the group or individual has of him. For example, In a team project, the team may elect one person in the group to lead the discussion.
Production refers to the leader’s ability to bring about results. When the leader (chosen or positional) brings about results, this increases his level of credibility. Those following have more faith in his ability to lead and get results.
Personal Development refers to the leader taking the initiative to develop his own skills as a person and as a leader to improve in both areas. Followers see a leader who is doing this as someone who is credible and “walks the talk” and someone who is humble and teachable.
Personhood is the top level of the five and refers more to the character of the person rather than his title. This person or a person at this level of influence has shown himself to be concerned with developing himself as a leader and being a credible person worth following. He is an influencer through example.
Jim Collins talks about 3 factors of leadership:
A Capable Individual
A Contributing Team Member
A Competent Orchestrator
Capable Individual refers to any individual who has core skills and competency, meaning that the potential for leadership is there, but development is necessary.
Contributing Team Member refers to the individual’s ability to not only be a part of a team but to see himself as an active member. This individual understands that any results (good or bad) are dependant on the combined effort of all team members.
A Competent Orchestrator is good at getting teams together and on the same page. He gets all the cats to walk in a straight line, so to speak. The competent orchestrator has a vision and communicates this vision to team members to get everyone working together towards a common goal.
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell
Orrin Woodward & Co-author Chris Brady
In their book entitled “Launching a Leadership Revolution”, these authors examine 5 levels of leadership, which are:
Developing Leaders Who Develop Leaders
Learning In order for someone to eventually become an effective leader, he or she must go through the learning phase with mentors. No title of authority or “wannabe” leader can ignore this important process (because it is ongoing). A leader who stops learning stops being the leader.
Performing is persevering through obstacles and failures. They go through the struggle, not just to it. They go through the process of dream-struggle-victory. These individuals focus on performance – their own performance, not the performance of others. They take on responsibilities and hold themselves accountable. Performing also means “tweaking” performance and results.
Leading means developing a broader ( and long term) vision. It means having the ability to communicate goals and vision to the group and orchestrate people to embrace the vision and work towards it willingly and together. The leader uses the past to learn from in order to affect the present and lead to an improved tomorrow. Clarity of vision, accountability, humility, teachability, and responsibility are all characteristics of an effective leader.
The effective leader is generous about giving credit to others for contributions and accomplishments and equally willing to accept responsibility for all failures. The effective leader will take the “hit” for the group.
Leaders Developing Leaders has to do with legacy and continuing momentum. It is the ripple effect, which is that when you toss a stone into water, the stone makes a small splash, but the water ripples further and further out into circles. So leaders who develop leaders are developing circles of influence.
It is at these two last levels that the impact we have on those around us begins to be noticeable. We are all in some way a role model for someone else or for others. Some of us are teachers, business leaders, community organizers and many of us are parents and coaches. The ripple effect of our actions and choices spreads out far beyond the circle intended.
“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.” – Warren Bennis
Am I A Leader?
Whether we realize it or not, we are all leaders to some degree. We also have people leading us, leading our children and leading our countries. We are Impacting people around us for better or for worse. Parents are leaders who are, hopefully, developing effective leaders. That is a huge responsibility. Employers are leading people, influencing them and impacting their lives. We are leaders in our neighborhood and in our larger community. It is not a matter of title, but of influence.
We are not always aware of how much influence we have on those within our close circles and in wider circles. We may think that our actions and our decisions only have a very short reach. The reality is that we are not only impacting the present all around us, but we are also playing an important role in the future. When you think about it, the responsibility is impressive. There is nothing small or insignificant about our contribution.
Effective Leadership – A Solution
Coming full circle back to the beginning of this post, we can see how having a good understanding of what leadership is and learning how to be an influencer in our own sphere of influence can have a potentially significant impact in the world around us (in our communities, in our schools, in our business communities, in our government leadership and beyond). If we consider the ripple effect of a stone in water and the ever-expanding water ripples and see our influence the same way, we can begin to see possible solutions to the lack of strong leadership.
In light of the leadership crisis that is so prevalent around us, I wanted to shed some light on what effective leadership can look like. In today’s world, we give people the authority of leadership (a title), but too often these individuals do not give the impression that they understand what leadership is. Just being in a position of leadership does not make one an effective leader or even a good leader. Leadership is about the heart and not about Braun.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject of leadership. Please leave a comment below.
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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, pursuing a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca