THE LEADER WORTH FOLLOWING
It's tricky talking about a subject like leadership because where I see a great need in other leaders, I know that I strive not to make similar mistakes myself. I don't consider myself to be an expert (or even a sage) on leadership, however I have put in the work - having read dozens of books on Church and business leadership over the past decade. I also have the unique opportunity as a traveling evangelist to observe and glean from leaders in diverse settings across the globe. Lastly, although I'm a leader, I have spent at least half of my professional life as a follower, and have experienced both the pain of negative leadership experiences and the blessing of positive leadership and what it can afford a team.
John Maxwell writes about the leadership ceiling - every leader has grown to a certain level of leadership capacity. On a scale of 1 to 10, they may currently be a 6. What this means for every leader is that if you have expanded your leadership capacity to be a 6, you will probably have leaders on the 4 or 5 level hanging around you. Most likely, leaders who are 7's or 8's will only stick around for a short period of time, but will not be able to last long. Bottom line: Expand your leadership ceiling, and you will increasingly draw higher capacity leaders around you in your mission. Fail to do this, and suffer the consequences.
From my resovoir of experience, I believe great leadership boils down to a few key traits that I will spend my life striving to be for others:
1. Be nice
People follow the leader because they trust the leader and they feel that the leader has their best interests in mind. The greatest leaders do not try to build a kingdom around themselves, but empower others and do their part to serve alongside the team. Very simply, a leader worth following is someone who exhibits kindness on a consistent basis, that breeds trust among their team. You can have the greatest personal qualities and charisma that draws crowds, but you won't be able to keep the crowds or fool anyone if you burn bridges. Some simple "nice advice" - say please, say thank you, give honor to whom honor is due.
2. Constantly improve
We must continually be raising our leadership ceiling. Part of this comes by actually leading and learning from mistakes. But leaders must also be aggressive learners, stoking the fire of their leadership with a regular intake of books, blogs, tweets and personal interaction with leaders they consider better than themselves in specific areas of leadership. Two books I'd encourage every leader to read are The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave and The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. And a blog I'd encourage every leader to subscribe to is Michael Hyatt's. You can subscribe daily or weekly. But don't stop with these resources. Leaders must be diligent self learners, self observers and self improvers (or self leaders!).
3. Over communicate
One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to leave a communication gap - with their expectations for employees, with their responses to team members to keep the ball rolling on projects and with overall vision as well as upcoming goals and projects. The more clearly the entire team sees the exact vision, the greater the chances of overall organizational success. The reason communication is such an issue in organizations is because the leader constantly finds themselves mulling over the vision in their own head - it is easy to assume that you have already made it clear to those around you. To avoid this mistake, always attempt to "over-communicate" to your team. Over-communicate the overarching vision by stating it often and in many ways. Over-communicate upcoming initiatives and projects, inspiring your team to exciting tasks and achievements. Over-communicate your expectations and hopes for individual job responsibilities. One of the ways I do this by CC'ing or BCC'ing team members on as many emails as possible to ensure everyone is continually in the loop.
4. Underpromise and Overdeliver
As leaders, in our attempt to cast vision, we can often find ourselves overpromising and later not being able to follow up with what we promised. We must battle this tendancy by learning what we can realistically accomplish and deliver and doing our best to understate what we will do. I attempt to consistently underpromise and overdeliver those I lead in the length of meetings, in my expectations for commitment, in the benefits of serving on projects I am working on, in my reporting of accomplishments and alternatively in the time it will take me to respond or accomplish a project and the time I will arrive for a meeting.