Ten Top Leadership Ideas
What? More Advice! There are undoubtedly more books, articles and quotes about leadership than almost any other topic. However, The template for the `ideal leader’ in any organisation is not the same today as it was five years ago, and it will not be a good fit for the needs of five years hence – not least because leadership is inextricably linked to situations. Those situations which leaders encounter are often novel, and usually unpredictable. Leadership does, after all, involve dealing with one of the most complex organisms on this planet – the human being!
Even if some basic leadership characteristics remain constant, the ways in which those need to be manifested are subject to change – personal style is a major factor and authenticity remains an essential factor. Leading is one of life’s most intensely personal experiences. It develops better and faster when learned than when taught – so that while advice provided by books, courses and webinars can provide some clues, it is putting that knowledge into action , and reflecting on the results, then taking steps to improve the outcome on the next occasion, which will develop the truly successful leader.
So here are some thoughts to aid that process of applied leadership. To introduce them, I have used some inspiring quotes.
It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership. —Nelson Mandela
This sentiment has often been expressed, but is so valuable it bears repeating. When there are plaudits to be handed out, make sure they go to your followers. When there is blame to be accepted or difficult challenges to be faced, step up!
One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency. —Arnold Glasow
One of the particularly important leadership traits is, I believe, the ability to look ahead – scan the horizon for possible storm clouds when everyone else is basking in the sunshine. A great leader needs to be optimistic in the sense of providing confidence and assurance to their followers, but that does not mean that privately, they should be regularly asking the question “What could go wrong now?”
What you do has far greater impact than what you say. —Stephen Covey
Never underestimate the degree to which, as a leader, you are under continuous scrutiny. Everything you do – or do not do – will be analysed and interpreted by your followers. Furthermore, if you are not congruent in word and deed, those interpretations will often be far from the messages you intended to communicate.
Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. —John C. Maxwell
As a leader, you may typically spend a lot of time thinking around an issue before you reach a position when you can share your thinking with others.There is a risk that you overlook that time when you come to share your conclusion, and jump too far ahead too quickly for your followers to keep pace or understand.Remember always to make sure that your followers are still with you – share your thinking and motives, and check for understanding before rushing ahead.
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. —John F. Kennedy
Leaders often talk about leaving a legacy – what better than to leave a group of well developed, competent and confident people who can continue to deliver excellence after you, as their leader, have moved on
When I give a minister an order, I leave it to him to find the means to carry it out. —Napoleon Bonaparte
A leader has to be able to recognise the things that he or she uniquely can do, and devote time to doing them. The corollary of this is being able to recognise the things the leader does not need to do – and stopping doing them. This often means getting out of our comfort zone and dealing with the tricky stuff.
A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. —Rosalynn Carter
A leader often has to take decisions and act in complex situations when there is no obvious single course of action. However, a word of caution – beware of the ‘leader always knows best’ syndrome.The leader may always have to make the final decision and take responsibility for it, but that does not mean that soliciting the views of others is a sign of weakness or poor leadership.
Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. —Stephen Covey
A slightly different take on ‘doing things right’ as opposed to ‘doing the right things’. However, it is the leader’s responsibility to make sure that the direction or vision of the team is thoroughly tested and regularly reviewed to make sure, in this rapidly changing environment, that it remains relevant and appropriate
The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. —Kenneth Blanchard
Leadership today is certainly an activity that succeeds with the permission of one’s followers, not by some assumed or traditional authoritarian right. Being able to encourage, support and guide in equal measure, and being able to understand what style is required at various times, are key skills for any good leader.
Whatever you are, be a good one. —Abraham Lincoln
What an excellent objective – as a leader, you can only be yourself, so focus your energies on being the best you can be, and continuing to improve, rather than comparing yourself with others. So get feedback whenever possible on your effectiveness, and act on it.
I have been involved in coaching for over 25 years. My focus is primarily particularly on leadership issues, since I had the good fortune to have been specifically trained as a leader in my early career, and to hone my skills surrounded by understanding followers.
In 1998 I founded Change Partners - a pioneer in the executive coaching field in South Africa. I have also worked for several non-profit organisations over the past 30 years. All of which has given me an understanding of a wide swathe of leadership roles.