A Crisis in Leadership
A lot has been discussed and written about concerning leadership. I, myself have written about this in an article published in Design 2 Part magazine, entitled, “8 Important Characteristics of Business Leaders: How 5 of the Greatest Exemplify Them”.
In spite of this, there is still a lack of good leaders, people we look up to and want to follow.
In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, 86% of respondents to a survey on the global agenda said that we have a leadership crisis in the world today.’
You would think that it couldn’t or shouldn’t be that bad. After all, we talk about, read about and study leadership. Yet, the facts are the facts. There is a lack of leadership and that causes some or possibly even many to keep them awake at night.
The problem may lie in two areas.
The first is the leadership that the individual is connected to. That person may be dictatorial, uninspiring or just plain incompetent. They got to their position through politics or nepotism and you are then expected to do their bidding.
You could certainly look for another position either in your current organization or somewhere else. But, the thought that it could be even worse makes you give pause to making a move and so you stay and bear it.
The second is with yourself. You have risen to a leadership position. You like to think that you earned it, but these days you really aren’t sure. Nothing you are leading seems to be going well. Deadlines are regularly missed, budgets are blown and you know your people are not confident in you and your ability to lead.
And, there is no one to talk to about this. Your boss tells you that you were placed in the position you are in because you are supposed to have the ability to get things done. Just do it you are told. But, do what? You have tried everything you know and nothing has worked. So now what?
To understand what is good leadership, the following traits should be present:
Nothing turns people off more than a contrived phony. Individuals who give meaningless rah rah talks that the listeners feel are not sincere, will lose their audience quickly.
A leader must make sure that he is talking to the people and not to himself. In one company I worked for, the standing joke was that the president was his own best audience. That is not a good mantra to carry throughout the organization.
If people perceive that you are not invested in what you are pitching, then they will not follow you and the cause. It goes to the saying that one must “Walk the Talk”.
If you find that your leader is not being honest then you must look for another leader. Otherwise, you will just be going through the motions in whatever you do and you are not invested.
If you find that people do not see you as sincere, it is a reckoning you have to have with yourself, that something needs to change and change quickly or you will lose your own following.
When people do not feel that they are valued or given the proper credit for what they are doing or have accomplished, they become resentful and in some cases spiteful. They may either give up or just go through the motions of whatever they are working on.
Even worse is when the person they report to takes all of the credit for the good that happens and none of the blame when something inevitably goes wrong.
A good leader puts his people first and himself last. He hands out credit when and where it is due and takes the blame when things go wrong. Too often this happens the other way around.
If you are working for someone who doesn’t give his people the credit they are due and throws them under the bus when things go awry, you are working for the wrong person and it is time to make a change.
If you are that type of person, it is time to boost your people and start to realize that you are responsible for them and what they do, not the other way around. All shortcomings fall on you. If a problem needs to be fixed, fix it. Till then, it is your problem.
Great communication skills
This does not mean giving great speeches or writing volumes about what you know or feel. It is about one-on-one dialogue between the leader and his or her followers.
And by communication, we aren’t talking about a one way talk. We are talking about; Message given, received, and understood.
That doesn’t mean that everybody agrees with everything. Differing thoughts and opinions are welcomed. and once a decision is made and communicated, everyone needs to move forward together
Anything less is troublesome. If it is my way or the highway, find the fastest road out of town.
If you are not communicating properly, it is time to get your act together and do so. Don’t be surprised that things aren’t getting done. It is your poor communication that is causing this.
Leaders want loyalty from their followers. Sometimes what they miss is that followers want loyalty back from them.
That doesn’t mean blind loyalty when whatever is said or done is 100% supported. When there are disagreements or issues, they are discussed, but in private. And once they are resolved. Both parties move on.
To not address disputes is to cause problems for sure. But once resolved, there is a trust and an understanding and the resolution is supported by all.
Loyalty is not a given. It is earned. To demand loyalty is a fool’s errand. You may get lip service, but not that deep seated loyalty that you are looking for.
Employees who believe a leader is loyal to them are much more likely to show that person their own loyalty in return. You need to make sure that the loyalty you expect is equaled by the loyalty you give.
Good leaders are willing to take on the risk of decision making. They make decisions and take risks knowing that if things don’t work out, they are first and foremost accountable for them.
That doesn’t mean taking foolish risks, but ones that are calculated. And, if things don’t turn out as planned, a good leader steps up and fixes it. When you have a person like that they are respected and followed.
An indecisive leader is afraid to move forward. Instead of taking action he makes excuses and little gets accomplished. Everything involves some amount of risk.
A good leader realizes this. He calculates the risk or risks involved and picks a logical path. He deals directly with any potential problems. And he doesn’t second guess himself or his staff.
It is hard to follow an indecisive person. That is because either nothing happens or changes occur at a dizzying pace. People need more stability and confidence in their leadership.
As a leader you must be decisive. That doesn’t mean you can never change a position or action. It should be done only if it is needed. If that occurs too often, your decision making must be re-evaluated and modified.
Just because you are a good worker does not mean that you will be equally successful as a leader. Too many times people areput in leadership positions when they shouldn’t be.
Leading takes a whole different skill set than doing. When a person is not suited to lead, they fall back into what they are most comfortable. In this case it is not leading, but doing.
When faced with a manager that is a doer rather than a leader, you have no one to follow. The leader will take on all of the responsibilities and nothing that anyone else does will be good enough.
When that happens, it is time to move on. The people that placed that person in the wrong position tend to not admit they made a mistake. So, the problem perpetuates. As it will not improve, the only way to change it is to move on.
You may think that you should gain a leadership position, even when you are not ready or qualified. If that happens, you either need to get the proper training, or take a step back and do what you are good at, doing, and not managing or leading.
You must be honest about this. It is great to hold a leadership position, but it is more important to doing something good with it.
Good leaders may also be good doers, but that is not their role, Their role is to get others to do the things needed. In order to accomplish that, they need to properly train and develop the employees reporting to them.
Along with training is the ability to empower those they lead to act autonomously and support their decisions. If they do not allow that to happen, they become the funnel that everything must flow through. And when that happens things can slow down or even come to a halt.
That is also dispiriting to the employees. They must get approval on any decision and their views are often second guessed. No leader, even the best ones can view and decide on everything. If they try to do so, they will fail.
No one wants to follow a failure. As a leader you must empower your people to work and decide many things on their own. Some decisions will need your approval, but not all of them. If that happens, you must change your approach or you will become that funnel.
People are more likely to follow the lead of those they like. The best leaders are well-spoken, approachable and friendly, and show sincere concern for others.
That does not mean that a leader has to have a dominant personality. They just have to take charge and provide the vision for where the group or company is going and how he intends them to get there.
We all have our own personalities. Some are very extroverted, while others may be introverted. Both types can be successful leaders. They just have to be true to their personalities and be genuine with the people they are leading.
People will follow those who they respect and who show the other characteristics previously covered. You must realize that strength and charisma are shown in varying ways.
Let your own self shine through. Be genuine. Inspire others to do their best and acknowledge and reward them for it. Be solid and unwavering. It isn’t an in your face charisma, but a more subdued type, And if you exhibit it, people will listen to and follow you.
As a leader, you need to pay attention to the things listed above.
And, you should expect nothing less from those you are following.
Unfortunately, the numbers are against you at the moment. If 86% of a survey say there is a leadership crisis in the entire world, chances are that you have a leader that adds to that crisis.
So, what are you to do? Well, staying awake at night won’t solve your concern. But doing something about it will.
For starters, don’t be one of them. By doing what the poor leaders you observe are doing, won’t make your or anyone else’s situation any better. I just lectured a class of Engineering students at Lehigh University. One of the points I made was that when you see something you don’t like, don’t perpetuate it. Change it.
You cannot control what others do.
But, you can control what you do. Sometimes change comes slowly. And it starts with one and then becomes two and so on and so on. There will always been poor leaders in the world. You do not have to be one of them. And by doing all that you can that should be sufficient and should allow you to sleep well at night and not keep you awake.