active listening, adaptable, Benjamin Banneker, cognitive diversity, Collaboration, commitment, communication, conviction, courage, disruption, Eisenhower, empathetic, failure, fair, flexible, Golda Meir, great leader, honest, integrity, Kennedy, lead the way, leadership, leading, leading by example, Lincoln, listener, open, respect, role model, sharing, strategy, successful, successful leader, think, thinking, tough, Washington
What it does not mean
What it ‘should’ mean
Diligence, Conviction & Drive
Examples of Successful Leaders
Listening & Feedback
SPOILER ALERT: This paper does not, in any fashion portend to include all there is in being a successful leader. Additionally, “successful leadership” and “successful leaders” are synonymous terms.
What it does not mean
It does not mean being dogmatic, on anything, with anyone! Sure, one has a right to think and believe what they desire but is that how you would choose to lead, successfully?
To me, this is a big topic and I wanted to include some definitions on being dogmatic as well as discuss it. We have far too many people who are of this bent, who are unwilling to actually ask questions or look something up (from multiple sources) to see if what they know is valid or not. And if it is not valid, then be able to learn from what they have discovered. They would rather try to bull their own, ill-conceived and incorrect conclusions on everyone around them…
From various dictionaries, the meaning of dogmatic:
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
Characterized by an authoritative, arrogant assertion of unproved or unprovable principles…
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary
Asserting opinions in a dictatorial manner; opinionated
Collins English Dictionary
1a (of a statement, opinion, etc.) forcibly asserted as if authoritative and unchallengeable
1b (of a person) prone to making such statements
2 (Philosophy) of, relating to, or constituting dogma: dogmatic writings.
3 based on assumption rather than empirical observation
So, do you really want to be seen as that kind of leader…?
Being a successful leader also does not mean being a brow-beater or dictatorial in your everyday interactions with subordinates. And it certainly does not mean that you are a softie, caving in, meekly at every turn for every employee/follower’s demands.
Being a successful leader also does not mean that one is full of pretense and bluster or beats around the bush – or, if you will, blowing smoke up someone’s pant legs
What it ‘should’ mean
Being a successful leader ‘should’ mean that you are someone that others are intentionally willing to follow.
It should mean that you have the character and integrity to say ‘no’ as much as you do in saying ‘yes.’ It means, because of your integrity that you are known for your tactful (and maybe at times blunt) honesty with those around you. You want everything to be on an open and level playing field in your interactions with others, without giving away any secrets of course…
It should mean that you have courage, the courage to stand up for the weakest amongst your team as well as for your own convictions.
It should mean that you are willing be the leader, even with knowing the burden that will be placed upon your shoulders in assuming that leadership. It might even mean your gaining gray hairs and wrinkles from assuming that position…
Congratulations, you are the role model for all those around you, are you up for it?
One thing is for sure; you definitely are not going to be going around stating “I am your role model, so follow me.” What you ‘will’ be doing is, well, just your job but doing it to the best of your ability, all day and “everyday!”
Being a role model is not something one turns on and off, it is simply something you do that others will want to emulate and take after you. There is no higher compliment than someone watching you, listening to you and then doing the same thing – to the best of their own ability.
A bonus – someone asking you to be their mentor would be quite the compliment…
The thing is, once people see you as a role model, you cannot let people down by going off (verbally or physically) on some weird tangent/shortcut against all reasonable expectations and doing something that makes no sense or is contrary to what you stand for.
You should want to be one who is setting the example of being good, if not the best; in everything you do rather than being someone who is of the ilk of mouthing the phrase “do as I say, not as I do.”
Successful leaders do the right thing (morally), as much as they can, whenever they can. For example, you do not engage in corporate espionage.
Successful leaders are full of commitment to or for a cause or project; they want to see that cause or project through to fruition, a successful culmination that makes everyone happy and feel good about the ensuing results. They have a strategy about success and some of that strategy has to do with drive, conviction, diligence, openness and cognitive diversity. No successful leader should be without these…
There are many more aspects to strategic success but are not all listed here. However, I have written about other aspects in the predecessor paper to this one.
Diligence, Conviction & Drive
A successful leader has a bullet proof and solid reputation of getting things done (and done very well) and doing so through their constant diligence and drive. This leader uses this diligence and drive in order to complete whatever strategic goal they have in front of them.
It is a sterling reputation if that leader’s conviction is well known to others for reaching a successful goal, not just for the task at hand but for their team, for their customers and for the company.
Successful leaders keep driving even in the face of adversity, i.e. – resource shortages, long, long days and/or tough conditions (no a.c. or heat or pressure cooker situations). Tough leaders pick up the slack whenever and wherever they can – they are not afraid to get their hands dirty.
A successful leader also learns from mistakes, learning as much as possible from what did not go right and then incorporating those corrections for the next iteration of effort. All without letting the failures break their spirit and drive.
This leader, man or woman, seeks to take what others view as abject failure and implements it into a strategy for continuing to be successful.
A successful leader adapts and learns – period.
A successful leader learns all the time, as much as possible looking for any new applicable and theoretical knowledge they can in order to become better. Anyone looking to be successful embraces this concept, learning to be better – always striving to be better informed and aware, learning from everyone they can, no matter who the other is. That other person can be a peer, subordinate or a stranger – it should not matter if the knowledge being acquired is true and worthwhile.
A successful leader knows that they cannot do everything in their division or team nor can they afford to micromanage. Being successful means that that leader knows to delegate and trust their teams to get the mission, task or issue resolved.
Micromanagement is not a way to success – what it does do is cause anger, resentment and high levels of attrition.
As part of any strategy, successful leaders use their eyes (and ears and brain and mind) to really see, not just look at, what is happening in front of them. They use theirs eyes to see what is now and what could be, if, if that leader engages their own resources and those of others to realize a successful goal.
Many people only look at things, objects, people and ideas at the surface level, while successful leaders make the extra effort to see what is below the surface, at the deeper layers to pull the true content and essence of whatever they are seeing for an advantageous goal or result.
A successful leader is one who has a broad background – culturally, educationally and work experience – to draw from in going forward. Having that broad background means the successful leader can be flexible and shift gears accordingly – all without too much pain or grief.
Then too, having a background that is strong due to their cognitive diversity means the successful leader is able to adapt – willingly and adroitly – to the vagaries of daily work life (or just life itself) for whatever situation is thrown their way, overcoming any obstacles that spring up, taking it (whatever occurs) in stride.
Cognitive diversity is not just for the leader but it also applies quite well to the peers and subordinates around that leader. The more cognitive diversity or experiences a person (or group) has, from across a very wide spectrum of life and work, it will mean that more
- Brain storming can be done
- Innovative solutions can be brought to bear to solve problems or snags in the workplace
- Forward thinking can take place in the group rather than the standard, staid, traditional isolated/insulated thinking that happens in many workplaces.
Being a successful leader means that you absolutely must learn to think and think creatively at times, sometimes with ingenuity and innovation, vertically and even laterally (thinking outside the box). You must make time to think deeply and thoughtfully – you must find a quiet spot or a quiet time and do this.
You cannot be successful if you do not put enough brain power into being successful and as to how much, well, if only we knew that answer… But it is up to you to determine that answer, you have to commit to doing deep thinking as often as possible, to think through consequences, extrapolating into the future. Using data analysis (and/or vision analysis) software tools will help with your deep thinking success.
Examples of Successful Leaders
There are plenty of examples of excellent leaders using various modes of leadership and/or strategy to achieve their goals. Look at Eisenhower, Kennedy, Benjamin Banneker, Lincoln, Israel’s PM Golda Meir and even the first president, Washington – they all used their leadership in being successful. A couple of the strategies they employed were those of listening and collaboration, while at the same time not simply caving in to someone else being dogmatic on some issue.
Communication, in all of its various forms, is what we all need to work on and to improve to be become better at our everyday engagements with others. It means you have to:
- Listen better,
- Understand – or at least make huge strides in trying to understand better,
- Giving and receiving feedback to improve,
- Seeing what is in front of you and
- Be respectful, this point alone will pay dividends
Whoever works for and/or with you, you as a great leader will need to know that the old saying of “leave your home problems at home,” is not a valid saying. It is the rare individual who can compartmentalize that well to leave ‘all’ of their problems at home and only focus on work. It just is not that easy. An individuals’ problem(s) may be severely significant and will interrupt their daily productivity.
And rest assured, just because a leader exhibits empathy and understanding, it does not necessarily construe any negative meaning that the leader is weak or has no backbone.
You have got to be able to understand that from person to person, they all have varying needs and you will need to be able – and want – to work with them on an individual basis. It might mean giving them an early release for the day or half a day off to go work on their home problems. These individuals that you help, the smart ones, will be very appreciative of what you do for them and will be more productive down the road to show their gratitude.
Now, those individuals who are “not smart,” well they may attempt to abuse this time off from work. For these folks, they get one additional chance (in my eyes) before they are booted out of the company, before they waste too much of anyone else’s time at the company.
Being respectful of others, not just kowtowing to what they want you to respect, but just in making the attempt to be respectful moves people. They will notice, sometimes visibly notice it, while at other times, it is noticed subconsciously.
Being respectful to others means that you pay attention to the differences that may be present between you and the other person and try to accommodate the other. Sometimes you may not be able to understand the differences but you should try.
You need to be respectful of the other’s gender, age, race, culture background, their educational background, of whether they are a parent (especially a single parent) – to show you understand (without being in their shoes) what they are going through as they go through a rough workday.
Successful leaders respect all around them. It does not matter the other person’s rank or position, the other person could be a U.S. cabinet secretary or they could be a mailroom clerk; they could be someone older or younger; they could be a man or a woman. The point is, it should not matter who the other person is, as long as you give respect to the other person, respect due their position and respect towards them as another person.
Now, that does not mean that the successful leader kowtows to everyone. What I mean by that specific statement is that not everyone deserves respect simply because of their authoritative or senior position. That other person may be a heinous individual who gives short shrift to everyone else and holds their authoritative position through some Machiavellian machinations, which possibly means that the position was not gained honestly and fairly.
Respecting a person for whom they are “and” for the position they hold is a rare privilege and should only be afforded to those who deserve it. You do not just roll over for everyone.
Listening & Feedback
You have to learn the highly coveted skill of listening to those around you – period. What someone is talking about or discussing, it may very well be of little consequence to you and the company. But to that individual talking, it might mean a great deal and knowing that someone is ‘actively listening’ to them could mean the breakthrough to their personal logjam, allowing them to become highly productive workers.
Listening to others may also generate great ideas and solutions worthy of following up on, to break through some sticking point on the production line or in creating a Big Data algorithm that is more efficient in culling massive mounds of disparate data and generating lucrative monetized results.
Listening more than anything, means looking the talker in the eye and paying attention, absorbing what they say. It does not mean, moving your head left to right, looking for something else to grab your attention. If I am not mistaken, it would be very annoying to you when someone else does it to you, correct….?
Feedback, feedback, feedback – VERY critical, for everyone…
It should not matter who is involved or where or for what reason; good, solid feedback and constructive criticism is of paramount importance for everyone.
You want to be better at your job, right?
You want your staff to be better at their jobs too, correct?
Then feedback is needed. No one is exempt from not receiving feedback. It should never matter, as long as it is done respectfully and in the vein of helping to improve the other (or yourself), of who is giving/receiving the feedback.
It should not matter if the other person is older or younger, straight or gay, male or female, senior or subordinate, colleague or stranger, etc., etc., etc. As long as the feedback conversation is done openly, honestly, aboveboard, with no hint of malice and, again, with respect – then no one should have any problem with getting useful and beneficial critical feedback.
Giving or receiving this kind of feedback may hurt a bit at times but it has to be done to raise one’s abilities to a higher plateau or risk being stuck on the same plateau for months (or years), going nowhere.
There are quite a few things that make a successful leader but as I indicated previously, this paper only scratches the surface with a few of the long list of notable aspects.
A successful leader is also not afraid to say “I do not know.” This is a valid response because no one knows everything on every topic – no one is a subject matter expert on everything today, simply because there are too many topics with too much information for anyone to be that knowledgeable. Now, if there is someone like that, my hat is off to him or her.
Just because you do not know something is not necessarily a bad thing. But, if you do not know an answer to a question or issue, your very next statement should be “I will find out and immediately get back to you.” So do not fret or run yourself into the ground out of fear due to not knowing something. Do not be afraid to say you do not know – just go find the needed answers, the best possible answers.
A successful leader:
- Looks out for their subordinates – you are willing take the hit and the blame for failures and mishaps. On the other hand, you generously parse out shares of credit for jobs well done,
- Is willing to mentor and share knowledge and to help out when the need arises,
- Is tough when it is necessary, even if it hurts one or many of those around; it is something that has to be. But, just because that successful leader is tough, it should not mean that leader is not level-headed. The successful leader should be fair-minded in all of his/her dealings with everyone around them and ‘not’ playing favorites because of looks, or age, or race, or political leanings, or what college someone went to. Being fair-minded means what it is implied, being fair-minded,
- Thinks, continually, about the common good and goals for all, sometimes even at their own expense…
To those unaware, for which this will be a kicker, lastly and most of all – successful leaders and leadership does not require that one have any specific title to lead successfully. Anyone can be a successful leader through their actions, their words and with their heart – as long as whatever they do is true.
A successful leader will be apparent to those looking and observing, if that observer can take their own ego out of the equation…