Continuing in my series exploring what makes a professional, I bring you these nine factors of leadership. Most recently I discussed the formation of professionalism in The Significance of Humility and Own Tools. While that one was based on my own personal experience, these nine are brought to you from my notes on a CEO presentation. Can't remember who it was because the notes are dated summer 2008, and no speaker subject is noted. I was simply going to file these away, but felt better value would be gained if instead I reflected upon them here while sharing them with you.
1. Vision - Vision is undeniably universal in the leadership discussion. The future is always uncertain. People don't like uncertainty, it triggers fear; hence, follower-ship - a prerequisite to actually being a leader - is earned through having a vision and that it not suck. Recently I was asked by a fellow who is embarking upon a new career path for some words of advice. This is what I said to him, "Learn the Biz. Figure out where it is going, and make a plan to add value in that future space. Look ahead. No stopping you." Come to think of it, I was encouraging him to develop his own vision.
2. Communication - Communication goes hand in hand with vision. The speaker placed emphasis on this factor highlighting the need to communicate your vision and the organizational priorities as frequently as possible. He also stressed the need to find different and engaging ways to communicate the same thing, so your message stays fresh and memorable. This is marketing 101: The message and the sender and the receivers of the message. It's how ad jingles end up in our heads. Here, I am reminded of how you can develop a child's taste for a new food. Introduce it on 30 different occasions. Don't take the initial 29 rejections personally. Eventually we all come around to like most of the foods our parents like.
3. Keep but a few priorities - This is never more true in this age of rapid change and constant interruption. I am a list maker. Have been for years. I do believe list making is essential to goal accomplishment; however, in my time I have come to achieve sudden death from to do lists. This is somewhat similar to analysis paralysis. In that while you are managing and prioritizing what you should do, the thing that you should do - should have already been done; and now you are in deep do do. Hence, list making if taken too far becomes a form of procrastination, a character flaw akin to greed and laziness. Let's face it, we all have far too much to do and we are far too under-resourced to accomplish all that we must do; however, we can choose to do a good job on the most important things in our sphere of control. Good leaders make good decisions about what must be done from among the clamoring noise of everything else begging to be done.
4. Relentless preparation - Note this one does not say complete preparation or perfect preparation. So, let us not confuse these with relentlessness. But before we go there, let us consider preparation. If we take preparation to simply mean planning it would not be enough. Refer to keeping a few priorities above and recalling to do list sudden death syndrome. Perfection is but another symptom for procrastination, a flaw through and through. Do not be tempted to reach for perfection or completeness in your preparations. Rather take time each day, week, and month to make plans while you are doing what you should be doing. Because, preparation is everything you do to make what you do remarkable. It is in the research and due diligence you do for the things you will do or about the people you will meet - learning what must be done to get it right, or how to respect the customs and traditions of those with whom you do business; discussing with your team ways to accomplish goals or ways to successfully interact with others. Preparation also means checking yourself in the mirror both literally and figuratively; that your fly is zipped, all belt loops looped, and no spinach on your teeth; that you have taken care to be sure that your obligations and responsibilities to others are met. Always keep in mind, your followers are watching you to see how to be. Relentlessness here is a commitment to do these things and to defend your focus to doing only those things which make you and what you do remarkable. Refer also to Calvin Coolidge's quote on persistence.
5. Conviction of belief - Beliefs are at our core. They shape our values and motivations. Formed over a lifetime, our beliefs are very hard to change. By the time we enter our 30's our beliefs are intractably in place. Yet at times we are unclear about just what it is we believe. We betray our beliefs to get something we want or to prevent something of ours from being taken. People are not stupid, once we betray our beliefs we betray their trust, and so goes their follower-ship. So what do we do with this? We must become convinced our beliefs are worth defending, because there is precious little we can do to change them and a great deal we can accomplish by accepting them.
6. Willingness to take risk - Nothing ventured nothing gained should be a proverb. Yet we so often ascribe to the idea, "I will try that when I..." fill in the blank. Usually financial security fits here, but it could also be an emotional trigger such as, "I'll wear that when I lose a few more pounds". Only most of us never loose the weight or get better off. We play it safe and never live the dream while getting fatter and deeper in debt along the way. The point is, if something you believe is worth striving for above all other options, go for it. Fact of the matter financial and emotional security are tenuous at best, things easily lost once attained. Besides, even if you start out with the bank roll or with the hot bod, events can and will conspire to take away what you've got anyway. Point is no matter whether you win or lose by taking risk, you will be engaged in something worth fighting for. You will be doing something you love, and for some reason this never feels like work.
7. Optimism - Optimism is the mother's milk for your followers. Mother's milk contains special antibodies to protect baby from harmful diseases, immunity is imparted though the milk. Just as these antibodies transfer immunity from mother to child, so does your optimism transfer immunity from all the environmental negativity to your followers. And there is always negativity; hence, optimism is a choice in the face of a difficult reality. As a leader, you are contagious. You infect others with your disease. Make it a good virus. Make it optimism.
8. Stewardship of others' resources - Under the file taking care, leaders are blessed with follower-ship. That is the people in your organisation give you permission to lead. They give you their time talent and treasure with the expectation that you will not waste them. They do this contingent upon the benefits associated with your tenure. Trust is the principal attribute in this transaction. Trust is granted so long as you set realistic expectations (refer to vision and communication), and take care to meet them (refer to keeping few priorities relentless preparation).
9. Passion - Leaders are a bridge to a vision. They carry followers over to a preferred reality. It must be a reality for which you are willing to stake the time of your life. There must be something about your vision which stimulates your emotion, energy, and personal power. Because if what you are seeking does not get you excited, how can your followers be expected to get motivated just the same?
What do you think about these 9 factors of leadership?
Thanks for reading and Happy Tiling!