For nearly 30 years I’ve had the honor of delivering leadership training and executive coaching to companies around the world. One of the things I get asked a lot is, “What is your definition of leadership?” I think I have a pretty good one, but first, let’s take a little detour.
I also do a lot of training in the area of high-performance teams, and one of the workshops I typically make the group go through is to create a list of the characteristics of an Ideal Team Member. I ask them, “If you were able to bring somebody fantastic onto your team, someone that you would love to work with, what would that person be like? What are the skills, abilities, attitude, and personality of an ideal team member for your company?” Here are the responses I hear the most:
- Has 100% integrity
- Positive attitude/fun to work with
- Excellent communicator
- Great listener
- Highly collaborative/a strong team player
- Lifelong Learner
Wow, what a great list, and after I read the list back to the group, I ask how many of them would love to have someone who has all these characteristics on their team? Every hand in the room shoots up, and then I say to them, “To get someone like this to join your team, you have to be like this first. Because anyone who has all the characteristics on that list will only work for someone else that also exhibits those characteristics.”
So, back to my definition of leadership. In my leadership classes, I run a very similar workshop where I ask small groups of attendees to develop a list of what they would look for in an Ideal Leader. I get all of the same things I listed above, plus a few more…
- A great coach
- Leads by example
It’s that last characteristic that shapes my definition of leadership.
To be an effective leader, you must be a living example of what you hope your followers will one day become.
Remember, if you hold a leadership position at any level in an organization, you live under a microscope. People watch everything you do; they listen to everything you say. Whatever you focus on becomes what they focus on and whatever you ignore they will ignore. Your behavior drives their behavior.
So, in my mind, to have great people in your organization, you must first become the kind of person that they want to work with. By the way, this is really hard. It takes a lot of discipline. This means you can’t just do what you feel like doing, or what you can get away with, or mistreat people because you’re in a foul mood, you must keep asking yourself, “What would an ideal leader do?” and follow that as your guide.
What is your definition of leadership?