How interesting that I’ve never really talked about what leadership is directly on this blog; I don’t think I even really addressed it in my book. I mentioned it in one of my seminar series and yet I’m not sure I defined it all that much.

7 Habits

What got me to define it is last week I was interviewed by a guy named Barry Mangione, a guy who’s actually a physical therapist and a musician who’s also interested in the topic of leadership. He interviewed me via a podcast, which he’s uploaded to a site called Stitcher, and he titled it What Is Leadership? How fascinating is that? If you’re interested in that question and others, including some background history on me, check it out.

Still, I get to define it here as well; thus, here’s the answer I gave him:

Leadership is the ability to get other people to agree with you and help you achieve your goal.

That’s it; that’s the full answer to what leadership is. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Actually it is… and it isn’t. It’s a great way to start… yet it can lead to both good and bad things. I didn’t talk much about those concepts in the interview, so I can talk about them now.

Leadership is really easy if you have a few things. The first one is charisma, which one uses to attract people to them. The second is empathy and compassion, which means you find a way to identify with others. The third is good communication skills, because if you can’t talk to anyone you can’t convey what it is you’re trying to do. The fourth is the ability to plan and organize, because if you can’t do that then what you have is just a dream, not a goal; and really, what’s the point of being a true leader if you don’t have a goal in mind?

In my mind, these are the keys to being a good leader. Some people have all of these and that’s what makes them good leaders. Others might have a few of these yet know how to work with others to fill in the parts they might not have in abundance. So, it’s more of understanding that these things are the crux of good leadership.

And yet, not all good leaders are good people; that’s the scary part. I don’t think I have to name despots, dictators, and other bad people who were great leaders. They were able to mass large numbers of people via the same skills I mentioned above to dominate their section of the world at different times. For that matter, the leader of any cult in the world probably has all of these skills.

So, I guess one could add the ability to find the right people who will believe in the goal and do whatever they can to help you get there, which you convince them to do with the first four skills.

That’s kind of scary isn’t it? It reminds me of a line from the first Harry Potter book when we learn of Voldemort at Ollivander’s Wand Shop (I’m a big Harry Potter fan, as some of you might know lol) when he says “The owner of the other wand (his and Harry’s wands have the same core and materials) did great things with his wand. Terrible, horrible things, but great.” Although history always uses words to condemn the deeds of these people, in their day the masses saw them as great leaders; we still see a lot of that now.

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This means we have to add a sixth component if we want leaders to be good; that component is responsibility. The thing about bad leaders is that they’re willing to kill as many people who support them as go against them. Look at Stalin as a great example. Although he was able to get a large number of the population of the USSR to fight for their country in World War 2, truth be told he allowed 20 million citizens to give their lives, many without proper training, because he was willing to allow every man and male child to lose their lives to protect his and his power. That’s on top of an estimated 20 million of his citizens he killed for his own reasons, sometimes very petty reasons (he had an ex-girlfriend killed after all).

The thing about responsibility is that it doesn’t mean people might not die in certain situations. For the military, it means that you give them the best training you can, the best tools to fight with, you set a strategy with the intention of saving as many lives as possible, including the enemy, and you mourn the losses because those people willingly went into battle for a principle or a country or for family… because they respected the leader.

Let’s bring this into daily business. Good leaders are willing to take the responsibility to make sure their employees get the training they need, get the counsel they need when their work isn’t up to par, give notice to employees who do right, protect their department when others have issues with them and those other people are wrong, give them a chance to grow and to give input and to feel a sense of ownership in what they do… and still exhibit the first five principles I mentioned.

Ask yourself a few questions. One, do these things seem easy to you? Two, do you do these things at least 80% of the time? Three, if not, are you willing to try to be better?

Finally, ask yourself “are you a good leader.” That’s what good leaders do; that’s what leadership is.
 

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