Someone recently asked me, “What’s missing in leaders today?”
As I’ve said 1,000 times, “leadership ain’t rocket surgery.” Here’s what seems to be commonly lacking in unsuccessful leaders today. Any or all of these can impact a leader’s performance:
Courage — to make hard decisions; to stand behind them afterward, and to support the values and ethics of an organization even when grossly uncomfortable. To take measured risks.
This is a big deal. I listed it first because, well, it’s first. And foremost.
True, even leaders need to feel “safe” to do these things, to some degree, but many cite some irrational, unproven fear of reprisal for their reason for cowardice in decision-making. The truth is, few — if any — can cite evidence that something really bad will happen to them. Even so, leadership is tough–wear a helmet.
It’s simply a fear of failure, and that can kill any leader. My article The Courageous Leader has more fodder to consider.
Credibility — a track record of doing what you say you’ll do. Making realistic expectations of others, and using accountability as a common thread for all involved. And the goal here is to make more “promises” or commitments, not less. In other words, really put yourself out there, and allow others to expect you to deliver.
Then deliver. Expect to be held rigidly accountable, and foster that same expectation of accountability on those you lead.
Empathy — the ability to listen, understand, and relate. Accepting input, and having the personal mettle to explain why some one’s advice won’t be used his time. Realizing that most people — generally — want the same things from their work experience.
I’m a long way from a “bleeding heart,” but empathy as a leader is a necessity. You’ve got to be able to understand why other people do what they do, so you can lead situationally. Their motivation becomes your key to performance improvement. Find it.
I’ll say it again, Leadership isn’t difficult. It can be complex, but we usually cause that somehow. It’s a simple combination of management competency, credibility, and the ability to motivate others.