Friday, September 20, 2013

Leadership Tendencies

I have written several blogs over the last few months exploring fresh new ideas in leadership. My intention has not been to abandon what we know to be effective as leaders, but to update our language and thinking about leadership. I continue this dialogue in this post with five new leadership tendencies that I find emerging in the conversation.

When I think of a tendency, I think of a preference for a particular way that one behaves. This is true in how we respond, almost by instinct, to the environment around us. It is also the core behaviors associated with leadership… those actions that are almost instinctual and driven more by style than by thought. What follows is a look into some of the leadership tendencies that appear to be most relevant.

We become a part of something by agreeing to the terms of membership. This is no different when we become leaders. By accepting our place in the academy of leadership, we accept certain responsibilities. First, we accept the idea that we are not in it alone. Collaboration with others is not only important but imperative. Second, we understand that we no longer have the luxury of thinking only for ourselves. Instead, we have a higher purpose, a greater role to those with whom we share membership. Finally, we feel compelled to ensure that we seek opportunities for worthwhile work, not only for ourselves but for others as well.

Loyalty in the vernacular of leadership is best described as devotion. Not only in the way we are attached to the organization through our work, but in the way we commit ourselves to others in the organization. Such commitment manifests in dependability and enthusiasm. As Samuel Goldwyn once stated, “I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.” As leaders, this loyalty serves a model for others to follow.

As leaders, it is an obligation we have to serve in a mentoring capacity. Leadership is about development, both our own as well as our influence on others. We cannot be content in simply serving in a leadership capacity we must be willing to share our wisdom and know-how in support of the professional growth and development of an emerging leader. “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” stated Benjamin Franklin. Mentoring is about engagement.

There is nothing new about the idea of servant leadership… it is a well-explored topic. However, from my perspective it is not a typical behavior of leaders. In fact, we too often focus on ourselves, even when we don’t necessarily mean to do so. John Maxwell has stated that “True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader.” Measures of our servant nature can be found in how well we cultivate trust and encourage others in their leadership journey.

Learning is a skill that never goes out of style. It implies goal-directed behavior whereby one expands existing knowledge, behaviors, or values to deepen understanding and awareness. How can one claim to be a leader if he or she is not actively seeking to grow and develop themselves in a learning environment? Albert Einstein stated it best, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” When we become a leader in whatever form that takes, it is not a ticket to sit back and relax. Just the opposite; it is the time for deeper understanding.

Our tendencies as leaders should drive us to seek ways to be more responsible, devoted, engaged, encouraging, and understanding. It is a matter of plugging in to ourselves and those around us. If we avoid these tendencies, we are being untrue to ourselves as leaders and unfair to those we lead. I would love to hear how you are letting your leadership tendencies thrive.