Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Kind of Leader You Want and Why You Should Care

Have you ever asked yourself what kind of leader you want? Did you ever think about it? What would it be? Over time I have asked these questions. I have asked my teams what each one of them wanted. I have asked people from other teams, people in other organizations. In different countries. And every time I asked it seemed to be the first time that people consciously thought about it.
As always in life it’s easy to criticize. It’s easy to say what you don’t want. And it’s hard to say what exactly it is you do want. It’s no different when it comes to leadership. Yet, it’s of the utmost importance when, for instance, electing political leaders. Or leaders of other organizations. Leaders in general. If you don’t know what kind of leader you want, anyone will do. Hence, look at the mess around you.
The majority of people does not understand the impact leaders have on all facets of their lives. As a result they don’t care. Until the shit hits the fan. And it hits it often. In the big picture with our global problems. And also with the little things on a daily basis at your workplace. Often annoying. And sometimes it just makes you sick. How come that something that important as leadership doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
Countless times I have seen people in leadership positions who didn’t at all belong there. Assigned leaders overwhelmed by the task. As long as the weather is nice, they are nice. In essence they let everyone do what everyone wants. Hoping that their teams know. Their greatest fear is being asked for guidance. Because they have no clue. Any direction will do. “Just go for it!” they’ll tell you. And with the first obstacle they fold. They fold under any kind of pressure no matter how tiny. And then they defend themselves by blaming you. Weak people without character.
Then there are others. Also assigned leaders just as the majority. They are the tough guys. The brave ones. They fight. All the time. And if there is no fight, they start one. Fighting is their purpose, not leading. And they put their teams to war, so to speak. Fighting is their way to camouflage their incompetence. Camouflage their average level of intelligence. As Napoleon Bonaparte said: “Putting the bravest instead of the smartest in leadership positions will end up in blunder.”
Those are just two examples of inept people in leadership. There are many more and I think it’s safe to assume that you have seen them also. Wherever these non leaders appear they leave behind blunder and people suffering. And billions of $ in sunk cost. This should be enough of a reason to care about leadership. To care about who your leaders are. To think about what kind of leaders you want. To think about, to speak about, and to act upon.
Leadership, leading others, is never easy. Leading is an art. An art demanding everything of you. It’s not for everyone. Definitely not. It takes courage to lead and it takes courage to step down when you can’t do it. But stepping down you must if you can’t deliver. Unfortunately, most of these assigned leaders won’t ever step down. Unless you give them an incentive. In form of a painful experience for them.
Here is what all these people I have asked told me. This is how they envisioned their leaders:
  • Someone we can trust at all times unconditionally and who trusts us the same way.
  • Someone who knows where to go and how to get there when times are tough and rough. That makes the difference.
  • Someone who genuinely cares about us. Who always tells us directly what we do right and what we do wrong. And who is there when we need him or her.
  • Someone who comes in when the heat is on, and when all others have left, and leads. Leads from the front and doesn’t hide.
  • Someone expressing himself / herself short, clear, and concise not leaving any doubt.
  • Someone loyal to his team and demanding the same loyalty from his / her team.
  • Someone with character. Who speaks up and points out what’s right and stands up for it.
It doesn’t matter where you ask people. After a while they open up and they all say the same. People know very well what kind of leaders they want. They are longing for true leaders. What they need to understand is that they have the power to bring about such a change. And then do it. That by itself is leadership too.

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