As I reflect on being a leader over the last 30 years, it’s been a process of building, learning and growing. I still believe that everything rises and falls on leadership. The times that I have not lead well, things began to slip whether at work or at home. When I’ve led well progress was made and change happened, in me and others. I’ve learned so much and still have a lot to learn and improve on, but I would like to share some of what I believe about leadership.
I’d like to share seven thoughts about leadership, and what great leaders do.
- Great leaders develop people – People development should be a daily event, integrated into every interaction and conversation. As a leader you are constantly evaluating things and people around you. Are the right people in the right position, who needs more attention, what resources are needed to help them grow, are our systems encouraging growth, learning and improvement. Encouragement is a big part of developing people, building up their self-confidence, encouraging risk taking and constant improvement. Leaders need to mentor, coach and counsel the people they lead. The only way to do that is by getting to know them, their personalities, what motivates them, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they are passionate about.
- Great leaders cast vision – Vision leaks and it’s the leaders responsibility to keep filling people up with the vision. If there is no vision the organization, the family, the relationship will decline. To cast vision you must be clear about what the vision really is. The vision can’t be constantly changing. Dripping the vision consistently, rewarding people that get it and living it out as an example.
- Great leaders build trust – Trust is built over time by being consistent, doing what you say, listening, and being humble. Leaders take responsibility for when things go wrong and they generously pass around praise when things go right. Trust building also comes from good decisions, asking for peoples input, and doing what is best for your company, your family or the relationship. It also makes a huge difference to admit when you were wrong and to ask for forgiveness when you make a mistake. Trust takes a long time to build, but can be lost very quickly with one bad decision or mistake. What helps me is to have some other leaders around me that know me and hold me accountable, pray for me and encourage me.
- Great leaders make the tough calls – Tough calls can bring on criticism, resistance and complaints. Leaders that are willing to make difficult decisions do that because of the vision, the values, and the culture they are passionate about. Anything that derails that or distracts from that, needs to be changed or eliminated. The ability to make the tough calls comes from years of experience, failure and victories. It’s also vital to have some trusted advisors or mentors that can help you when you are facing a tough decision.
- Great leaders serve – Serving the people around you is one of the primary functions of a leader. What I mean by that is good leaders look for ways to make things better for their people. What resources are needed? What information is needed? What questions need to be asked? Who needs to rest or slow down? Who needs to be challenged more? The best way to do this is by meeting with your people, asking questions, getting to know them better, and really caring about them. Great leaders serve!
- Great leaders inspire – Inspiration comes from a compelling vision, but it also comes from being a good example. Leaders that live out what they say and lead by example inspire others to do the same. Leaders that take risks, learn through failure, and lead with integrity inspire people and give people the courage to do the same. Inspiration comes from the words leaders use and the actions they take.
- Great leaders are humble – Humility is the key to great leadership. Thinking about what is best for others and not yourself. Being open to new ideas or other people’s opinions. Admitting when you make a mistake, and owning bad decisions. Being humble does not mean you are weak, it really means you are strong and confident. It means you are not afraid to surround yourself with people more talented than you are. Leaders that have the combination of humility and persistence are the leaders people want to follow.
There is so much more to leadership, but if you work on just a few of these things you can grow as a leader. If you are struggling as a leader, keep going, it’s in the struggling that you become the leader God created you to be.
The last thing I will say about great leadership is that faith in Jesus Christ has been a game changer for me. Jesus is the best leader this world has ever seen. Simply studying and following the life of Jesus will make you a better leader. Putting your faith and trust in him changes your eternal destiny. He is all seven of those things in perfection, and so much more.