The Leadership Memorandum
Subject: Leadership, leaders, delegating, Credibility, Motivation, Success
Victor Antonio G.
When I hear the question “What is a leader?”, my immediate response is to say, “How much time do you have?”
Let me begin by stating what leadership isn’t. Leadership is not a one-dimension quality or characteristic that can be captured in one short quip and slapped onto a bumper sticker. Leadership is not about being elected to some position or post. Leadership is not about having a fancy title and bossing people around. Leadership is not about being admired by those under you.
I’ve known too many people who have been elected to high positions, carry great titles, are admired by friends and yet have no sense of direction regarding when it comes to direction. This situation is often referred to as the Peter Principle; when someone has been promoted to a position of incompetence and finds themselves lost.
But lets get back to defining what leadership is now that we know what it isn’t. Defining leadership is not as simple as most people would assume. And no matter how many people you ask you will invariably get different answers to the question, “What is leadership?” One thing is for certain, leadership is a multifaceted, multidimensional quality whose sum total makes up its real definition. Leadership IS the sum total of many features and qualities that make a true leader. But trying to get a few people in the room to define and agree on the qualities might be another story!
In this memorandum I’ve compile 22 key elements of a great leader. My hope is that by sharing these characteristics we become smarter and more aware of the complexity of a true leader. The sum total of these 22 key elements will give us a very good approximation of true leadership.
1. First, a leader must have a passion, a burning desire to bring something positive about. He must internalize what has to be done and convert that passion into action. Passion comes before leadership. Leaders without passion are simply people with fancy titles and no sense of direction. When you have a passion and act on that passion, you become a leader compelled to move forward by some quantifiable desire. You are motivated into action by a calling.
Will passion alone show you how to get to where you’re going? Will passion give you have all the answers? Of course not! Are you leery or afraid of what lies around the corner? Of course you are! Which is why…
2. The second key aspect of being a great leader is the ability to accept fear as part of the risks we take. Fear is something that comes part and parcel with everything that is unknown or new to us. A leader understands that all challenges have an element of fear that must be confronted. No matter how hesitant you may be, a leader knows that he or she cannot show fear; especially if others who are following are watching closely. Leaders learn to stare down fear and know with certainty that they can overcome a challenge if they make up their mind to do so. When you’re assigned a task or come across a new opportunity, if your excitement is tempered by fear of failure, this is understandable. True leaders amplify and focus on the excitement of the unknown while at the same time working to diminish the possibility of failure. To a leader, there is always a way, a solution to overcome any obstacles placed in their way.
3. Which is why a leader must also know when to be a cheerleader. When to encourage others to look past their own limitations and join in on the movement towards some goal. Leaders push, cajole, excite, motivate people to be better than what they think they can be. Leaders show no fear in the face of adversity and ask you to do the same. No matter how difficult things get, leaders will not allow their people to lose hope and faith in what they’ve set out to accomplish. Leaders cheer when times are good, but most importantly, the do so when times are bad.
4. A leader is honest to himself but more so to his people. Whether delivering good news or bad, a leader does not hesitate in either. We all want to be heroes. We all want to be the bearer of ‘good news”. But when things don’t go right, a true leader always admits and submits to the realities. They don’t lie to themselves or those they lead. Is admitting failure or difficulty in accomplishing a goal giving up? No! Leaders acknowledge reality and assess it for what it is. Leaders evade reality or pretend that bad things aren’t happening. Leaders know that in order to overcome any obstacle requires a complete understanding of the situation, no matter how dire. Too often leaders fall into trap of keeping up pretenses in order to spare others the harsh realities. Wrong! Another common trap is to believe that by being honest with others, we expose our weaknesses or inabilities. Wrong! True leaders accept responsibility for their situation and aren’t afraid of sharing their predicament with those who would follow. A leader is not insecure. Leaders can’t lie to themselves or those around them. In both cases a leader loses the respect of his followers if they ever found out they were being misled or deceived. Leaders accept challenges and aren’t hesitant about making everyone else aware of the current situation. A leader doesn’t hide or shade the truth from others. This would be a disrespectful of the others right to know the truth.
5. Leaders never give up. But most importantly, a leader never gives up on you, even when you’ve given up on yourself. Leaders see only delays or temporary setbacks. Leaders pause to recalculate and figure things out. Leaders ask, “What else can we try?” And when you’ve given up on yourself, leaders say, “Why? I haven’t!” Leaders encourage you to lean on them as they in turn are not afraid to lean on you. Leadership is a partnership between those who lead and those who follow. Each has a responsibility to each other. Notice when a person is wounded and other person lifts them up, puts the wounded persons arm around his neck, and then puts his arm around their waste and helps carry them. That’s the image we should all hold constant. Two people holding on to each other, counterbalancing each other’s burden, moving forward, slowly, but surely.
6. Get it done right! A leader knows that speed is not the sole mark of accomplishment. Leaders know that doing it right is far superior to doing it fast. Leaders never run, they walk with purpose. Leaders do not allow others to rush their decisions that require more reflection. Leaders like to weigh options and listen to everyone’s input or feedback. A leader is not hurried or pressure by time constraints. Leaders know that things that get rushed get flushed. Leaders respect time and will work diligently to meet time schedules they have agreed to.
7. Because another aspect of a leader is commitment. Leaders who commit to doing something, or bring about something, know that their word is their bond. A leader measures what tasks he or she will accept because they know that there is only so much time in the day and they can only do so much. Leaders know when to say yes, but more importantly, they know when to say no. Leaders who are bound by their word to a commitment, do not agree to things lightly. Many people take on too many tasks because they’re afraid to say, “no” or are trying to do more than they can. A true leader knows how much to bite off and how much can be chewed in a given span of time. A true leader knows that it is better to say ‘no’ and have others think what they will, then to say yes and fail to deliver.
8. A leader has compassion for those who need an extra hand. Leaders know that we are all born with varying skill sets. Each of us is equipped to do a particular job or jobs better than others. Some of us learn quicker than others while some struggle just to keep up. Leaders don’t view this as a weakness, but see it as issue that has to be calculated and readjusted. If a person isn’t good at one thing, a leader searches to find what that person can excel at. As the saying goes, no one stands taller then when they stoop down to help someone. All of us in life will, at one time or another, need some help, someone to lend us a hand. Compassion is about understanding and knowing that we all need help once in a while. This very fact is what keeps great leaders humble and connected to those they lead.
9. Leaders are too busy doing, while others are too busy talking. Leaders have a way of filtering out good signals from the rest of the noise in the environment. Like a radio, a leader is tuned into the pleasant channels along the frequency continuum that provide useful information and not idle gossip or chatter. Leaders avoid the noise between the channels. Leaders know that they must tune into things that have to be done and ignore the noise of inactivity that surrounds them. Too often people are complaining about the reasons they can’t do something, while great leaders are out there proving them wrong.
10. Every leader must have clarity of vision. They see the outcome in their mind before it actually happens. They have an internal gyroscope that keeps them on course as they navigate the difficulties and challenges along the way. Leaders must figured out the who, what, when, where, why and most important, how they are going to achieve their goals. Every vision with clarity is propelled by a powerful reason for wanting to do it. Someone once said, “If you have a big enough WHY, you will always find a HOW to getting it done. The ‘why’ is the passion, the ‘how’ is a plan borne of passion.
11. Leaders plan to succeed. They literally have a ‘plan’ for succeeding. Losers feel planning is too cumbersome and bypass it altogether. Is it no surprise then that research has shown that individuals who take the time to write down their goals, link the actions required to achieve those goals are the most successful? We’ve all heard the saying, “fail to plan, plan to fail”. Vision without a plan is only a dream that will remain just that, a dream. A friend of mine told me a long time ago, “There is no such thing as a wrong decision, you just have to make it work.” I’ve always liked the saying because we don’t always have the perfect plan. We don’t always make optimal decisions. But we do have a choice in the matter: adjust the plan as you go or be defeated by misfortune. Leaders choose to take corrective action and not dwell on mistakes. Remember, a plan is a tentative strategy waiting for reality to provide the necessary feedback to adjust it once again. The only thing guaranteed in a plan is that it will change.
Please feel free to forward this to a friend or colleague.
Copyright © 2004 by Victor Antonio G. All rights reserved. This article MAY be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, as long as the author’s name, website and email address are included as part of the article’s body. All inquiries, including information on electronic licensing, should be directed to Victor Antonio G.
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Victor Antonio G., Sales Influence All Rights Reserved 2002-2009,
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