When I speak to groups about leadership I often ask those in the audience to identify the best leader they have ever known. I tell them that it has to be a leader they have experienced directly, not someone they know only by reputation or have read about in a book. Once they have identified their leader, I ask them to think about what made him or her so effective. I then have them call out the characteristics that they saw in their leader. As many times as I’ve done this exercise, the list of characteristics that people identify in the best leaders they have ever experienced always fall into one of three categories. Great leaders do these three things:
Leadership is influence. In order to lead effectively, a leader must be able to affect the way those following him or her think, see things, and ultimately what they do. Building influence with followers is what gives leaders the CLOUT to lead.
Someone who has been given a leadership role does not retain that position very long without producing desired results. Even when a leader is not directly accountable to someone else, they still won’t retain followers without meaningful results. This is because people want to be part of something significant, and they won’t stay with a leader who can’t give them that. Producing results is what gives leaders the CREDIBILITY to lead.
A leader’s impact is limited as long as he or she carries all of the leadership responsibility by them selves. Developing others who can help carry the responsibility is what gives leaders the CAPACITY to lead.
Anyone in a leadership role eventually discovers the importance of being able to build influence, produce results, and develop leaders in order to be effective. What many struggle with is how. Most take a conventional approach. More about that in a future post.