What is Leadership?
Quality leadership is the one ingredient critical to the success of any organization; whether government, business, social, church or family. The present challenges to our way of life in America for successful resolution demand excellence in leadership from the presidency through our local city councils, businesses, families and, perhaps most important, our personal lives.
But what is leadership? In two words, leadership is inspiring influence. Some lead with dynamic leadership while others are hands-on. Some are quiet while others are eloquent speakers and cheerleaders. The common trait of great leaders is they get the job done and get along with people. A leader is hopeful and instills hope in those that are led, having earned respect.
As a people we do not prefer elitist who look down on us or talk down to us, but prefer those who have been subjected to the intense heat of life’s demands while forging the toughness and strength for successful leadership. Time and actions raise the curtain on those in the position of leadership to show the true nature and intent of the individual leader. We are now in a transition of learning “change” is a verb and we should explore the “from” and the “to” before just seeking action without fully understanding objectives.
Those who best understand survival in this difficult world are those who have been in the valley’s and peaks of life and come through victorious. They understand the problems and frustrations of those being led and, while often scarred by life’s wars in raising a family, making a living and staying healthy, they are optimistic rather than bitter and determined to make their world a better place to live ranging from their family to the planet!
Leaders are often defined by what a leader is not:
- A leader is not pessimistic; but rather hopeful in meeting the challenges, no matter how dismal the chances for success may appear, and instills hope in those led.
- A leader does not sit on the fence to try to please everyone or use false flattery. Trying to please people for the sake of personal success, power for personal gain or getting elected to a power position is a form of leadership that will ultimately fail.
- A leader does not exhibit greed, including accumulating money as a primary goal; the love of power, things, fame and/or pleasure; but has a first priority the welfare of those led.
- A leader is not authoritarian, aloof and power driven for self gain and aggrandizement, but a humble servant-leader who delivers truth and strength learning from the wisdom of others, the lessons of history and a living faith.
- A true leader does not lie, manipulate or deceive those led.
Leaders are also determined by positive traits.
- Leaders have authenticity and are not hypocritical. Be real and approachable and let your life reflect your words. As an old bit of wisdom says, “Walk the walk; not just talk the talk.” Character and truth are essential ingredients of respect, with people in the long term seldom impressed by hollow rhetoric; no matter how eloquently delivered. Actions do have consequences.
- Leaders give enthusiastic affirmation to promote our strengths to keep striving in spite of obstacles in our path to success. “We can do it!” is not a slogan but a way of life! Perseverance and tenacity succeed where intellect and intensions often fail.
- Leaders are sensitive to the needs of others with affection for all. Selfishness must be set aside with sensitivity to the needs of others essential. Don’t judge by looking at the cover and set aside prejudice to seek and develop the best from us all.
- A leader must be just and equitable in his or her actions with wisdom. The Bible in Proverbs 2 tells us wisdom comes from seeking knowledge and understanding and from these evolve the ability to deliver justice and equity to those led.
Four Way Test
An excellent summary of outstanding leadership characteristics is found in the Rotary International Club’s “Four Way Test” written by Herbert J. Taylor in 1932. In all that we say or do, consider the following:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Whether you seek to be a leader or want to know how to evaluate those seeking to be your leaders, the test must change from today’s, “What can I get out of it” or “What can you do for me” to being a leader and choosing leaders based on their truthfulness, fairness and unselfish character with a foundation of integrity, compassion for those led and Christian values.
Put simply, aspire to inspire before you expire!
Frankly speaking, no one is perfect and we all fall short of the ideals that guide us, but we must continue each moment of each day to strive toward those objectives and to be more like the one perfect man who ever lived who did in not just “talk the talk, but in fact did “walk the walk” as the perfect leader.