At the beginning of a class I facilitated on leadership I asked participants to name the characteristics or behaviors of someone in their lives who demonstrated leadership; someone who made a difference for them. Here are some of their responses (my comments included):
1. “They were trustworthy.”
Comment: Trust is the foundation for all meaningful relationships. Participants understand the importance of it in their leaders.
2. “They listened to me.”
Comment: Leaders must listen, really listen, to those around them. Listening implies respect and conveys a feeling of importance. Selective listening (only hearing what you want to hear) makes a leader ineffective.
3. “They cared.”
Comment: Caring can be demonstrated in many ways. Leaders know how to live it and demonstrate it. Leaders help out, and they are not afraid to get their hands dirty.
4. “My concerns weren’t trivial.”
Comment: Believing that our concerns are more important than others is not effective leadership. Our concerns come from our unique personalities and our unique experiences, and they are important to us. Leaders recognize and effectively deal with our concerns.
5. “They were fair (equity principle).”
Comment: Employees expect fairness and consistency from their leaders. Fairness is demonstrated by treating others as equals, eliminating favoritism, and involving others in decision making.
6. “They ‘leveled’ with me (about reality).”
Comment: Superiors who believe they can speak in half-truths fail to realize that subordinates learn the truth eventually. Leaders communicate openly and understand the importance of it. They realize subordinates prefer openness and that they will respond positively to it.
7. “They were empathic.”
Comment: This is one of the best principles I know for succeeding with others. How often have you wished that the other person you were talking with had the ability to understand your situation and could put themselves in your place? Leaders demonstrate this ability time and again.
8. “We won, together.”
Comment: Leaders do not win at the expense of others. Stephen Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) talks about the importance of win-win situations and that winning at someone else’s expense becomes a lose-lose situation eventually.
9. “They weren’t arrogant. They wanted to learn from me, and they knew
I had knowledge that could help them.”
Comment: Leaders are quietly confident and seek advice.
10. “They were consistent (actions equaled words).”
Comment: Leaders walk their talk. In other words they say what they do,
and do what they say.
11. “I was not expected to be perfect (I was given allowances for being
Comment: A great way to demonstrate understanding.
12. “Values, ethics, and principles were more important than winning.”
Comment: If we don’t live, work, and play by shared values, ethics, and
principles then what do we have?
Stephen Covey in his book, Principle-Centered Leadership, talks about
a Universal Mission Statement that should deal with all aspects of a leaders
responsibility. It reads like this, “To improve the economic well-being and
quality of life for all stake-holders.”
“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the
undertaker will be sorry.” -Mark Twain