I've had the privilege of leading diverse organizations in the business, nonprofit and faith-based worlds. Although those worlds vary, many of the leadership principles are the same. I've seen examples of great leaders and poor ones in each.
The Internet and bookstores are filled with treatises on what an effective leader should be. In reality, the majority of leaders I've experienced lacked many of those qualities. In fact, a concerning number of them displayed characteristics that were detrimental to the goals and the growth of the organization they served.
Some of this stemmed from selfishness. For others, it was lack of training. Whatever the reasons, I wanted to point out some of these characters so that you can identify them in your environment (or in yourself), and then take remedial action. By stopping to honestly self-assess, we can all learn and change for the better.
Take a look at the characters below and see if you recognize any of them in yourself or in others. Then please take a few minutes and write down your plan of action to address any problem areas you see. Be brutally honest with yourself, and please reach out to an accountability partner or mentor if you identify any areas that need improvement.
Double Standard Donna: Donna believes in two standards – one for leaders and one for “followers.” Donna’s greatest flaw is that she asks the people she leads to take actions or make personal sacrifices she refuses to make herself. A true leader sets the example by being the first to do what is asked of others.
Demanding Danny: Danny “Demands” respect from others. He believes that based on his positional role (i.e., manager, supervisor, team lead, ministry head, etc.,) that people should automatically respect him. Danny doesn't understand that respect is always earned, and positional leadership is actually the lowest level of leadership. People respect leaders (regardless of position) who consistently add value to their lives by serving them. Danny has the title, but the true leader may be his exceptional file clerk.
Undermining Ursula: Ursula breaks down the leadership team by criticizing other leaders or the team with others. Sometimes this is done publicly or (“privately” she thinks). Ursula doesn't understand that such actions undermine the entire leadership team, including herself. Today she may openly criticize someone else on the team. Tomorrow, it will be her turn. Unity is essential in any leadership dynamic.
Loner Larry: Larry doesn't connect with people. He likes the leadership position, but not the people. Larry has to learn that leadership goes beyond the task at hand or what he needs from his reports at any given moment. He has to learn that people respond to people who care and demonstrate concern beyond the job or the project of the moment. People are not projects. A true leader connects with his people; he leaves a piece of himself with the team. Leadership can be lonely, but it’s not a loner’s exercise.
Condescending Carol: Carol has a habit of talking down to people. She believes that her leadership position gives her superior knowledge and leeway to dismiss the less qualified, in her mind. Carol hasn't learned that leaders learn far more from the people they lead—if they listen. She is unaware that condescending to people damages the hearer, the team and also the speaker.
Have you met any of these characters? Have you been one? Leadership development is essential to growing organizations, but it’s what Stephen Covey defines as a “Quadrant 2” activity—important, but not urgent. Therefore, it’s often left on the table as an “ought” rather than an imperative (which it is).
I'd love your feedback as to effective tools to deal with leadership deficits in your team environments. Please leave your comments here and please come back for Part Two, where I’ll showcase 5 other leaders you may also know.
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