7 Pillars of Great Leaders

Have you ever considered what the common traits are of great leaders? I call the traits the pillars of leadership.  I think about the question a lot, because I love observing leaders and I strive to be a better leader. I like simple, easy-to-understand answers, so I have asked this type question frequently through Twitter, to see what common agreement exists about what makes a leader great.

Here are 7 pillars of leadership I’ve landed on in my search. You’ll find these among all great leaders.

Vision – In something bigger than the leader…

Commitment - To a cause and/or people…

Decisiveness – To make the hard call others will follow…

Courage – To weather the storms of leadership…

People – Realizing that others matter and there is no leadership without some…

Passion - It’s what gets a leader up in the morning ready to face another day…

Character – It’s what sustains a leader and why others continue to follow…

How did I do?  What would you add to my list?

Make this post better by adding your own thoughts.

7 Traits of Courageous Leadership

Recently I posted 7 Characteristics of Cowardly Lion Leadership. In that post, I discussed the characteristics of leaders who fail to have the courage needed to lead well. I thought it only fair to share the reverse post. There are many courageous leaders in our world today, as evidenced by the strong organizations that thrive even during difficult economic times.

Here are 7 traits of a courageous leader:

  • Doesn’t bail on the team when things get difficult…
  • Not afraid to make big requests of others…but willing to pull equal weight to accomplish them…
  • Willing to take the first move into unchartered territory…pursuing the unproven by willingly taking risks…
  • Moves forward by faith…even when the outcome is unclear…
  • Makes hard decisions regarding people…trusting responsibilities to others early and acknowledging when a team member is no longer a good fit for the team…
  • Protects the God-given vision in the midst of criticism, hard economic times, and setbacks…
  • Implements needed changes even when they are uncomfortable or not immediately popular…

Thanks to all the courageous leaders who are leading well! You are making a difference!

Make this post better:

When you think of courageous leader, who comes to your mind?

What would you add to this list?

7 Characteristics of Cowardly Lion Leadership

You remember the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz don’t you?  He was supposed to be the king of the jungle but he had no courage.

Sadly I see this missing in much leadership today. Let’s face it.  Leading others is hard. There is often loneliness to leadership. (I wrote about it HERE.)  Leadership takes great courage.

Here are 7 characteristics of cowardly leadership:

  • Says “I’ll think about it” rather than “No”…even no is already the decided answer…
  • Avoids conflict…even when it is necessary for the good of relationships and the organization…
  • Never willing to make the hard decisions…
  • Pretends everything is okay…even when it’s not…
  • Bails on the team when things become difficult…
  • Refuses to back up team members…
  • Caves in to criticism…even if it is unfounded…

What would you add to my list?

Do you find it scary to be a leader sometimes?  What’s the scariest time you face as a leader?

Tomorrow I will share “7 traits of courageous leadership”.

Doodling Leadership Tip – Addressing the Real Problem

I love the White board application on my iPad. I find myself using it to teach, when sitting with someone, think in pictures, and recently, just to scribble out a quick thought. I decided to periodically share some of them with you here:

Let me ask you to consider this question:

Could you be addressing issues, symptoms, reactions…attempting to correct a problem…but the real problem continues to be unaddressed?

3 Values of Teamwork

Recently I was asked a question regarding how we handle set-up on Sunday mornings. Grace Community Church meets in a school and so every Sunday morning staff and volunteers start arriving about 5:30 AM to prepare for the day.  The specific question was whether we have one person who oversees all the set-up.  The answer is no. We actually have a team of people responsible; with different people in each area of ministry.

Answering the question reminded me of the value of teamwork.  I personally believe that the way we are doing this is best.   I’m not opposed to one central leader, and in some situations that may be better, but with this task, I think the team approach is more efficient than one individual being in charge.

Here are 3 reasons I personally prefer a team approach for this function of our church:

Decentralized control - With one person in charge, if that person gets sick, moves, or decides he or she gets tired and quits, the whole church would suffer.  As it stands now, it’s easier to cross train, we can be covered for absences better, and we aren’t putting all our eggs in one basket so-to-speak with such a vital function as an organization.

Makes each task easier - Think about it: It takes about 200 volunteers for us to make a Sunday work and about 50 of those are heavily involved in set-up. Would your prefer to recruit 10 volunteers for a specific area per Sunday or the entire 200 number?  (I thought so!) Especially when working with volunteers, the easier you can make the task to accomplish the greater success you will have for the long-term. People genuinely want to do a task well, but have limited time (and sometimes experience) to do them.

Brings more people to the table – We like to plug people into leadership roles quickly.  In my experience, when someone has responsibility they are more likely to mature as a person.  When a person has a heart to serve others, they need something of value to complete.  Using a team provides more opportunities to assign leadership tasks.

If you have an especially challenging or overwhelming task to complete you may benefit from a team approach.  Breaking the function into smaller, more manageable parts will help you accomplish more and get more people involved, which is always good for the organization.

Just curious, do you work better as a team or as an individual? Does it depend upon the task?

Have You Ever Been Placed in Leadership Time-Out?

Recently in Costa Rica I saw a tradition that’s common in my country too.  A child was placed in time-out…  For a certain amount of time, a child is not allowed to play with the other children, has to sit in a corner and is basically ignored. I’m certainly not critical of the form of discipline. It works well for some children. We had one for which it would work and one for which it wouldn’t.

I definitely, however, believe there is a time when a “child” outgrows the effectiveness of the practice.  I don’t know that “time out”, for example, works for adults, yet I see it frequently.

Have you ever been placed in leadership time-out?

Leadership time-out occurs:

  • When a leader ignores you because of a mistake you’ve made…
  • When a leader avoids you after a difference of opinion…
  • When a leader is threatened by you so he or she keeps you at a distance…
  • When you have no relationship with the leader other than professional…
  • When a leader acknowledges you only when it’s beneficial to the leader…
  • When a leader has a set of “favorites” on the team…and you’re not included…

After my examples, let me ask again, have you ever been placed in leadership time-out?

In my opinion and experience, leadership time-out is often due to poor leadership skills on the part of the leader.  The leader operates more out fear or control than out of respect and empowerment.  The leader plays games more than he or she leads strategically.  The leader doesn’t have the maturity to lead effectively.

Great leaders learn to push through the emotional aspects of leadership so they can treat people as adults in every situation.

What other examples would you add to my list?

The Way a Leader is Expected to Respond…

Have you learned a valuable principle about your leadership?

The way others expect you to respond often determines the way they respond to you.

  • If they expect you to respond in anger…they’ll dance around an issue, afraid to confront…
  • If they expect you to respond defensively…they’ll only bring you the proven answers…refusing to take risks…
  • If they expect you to respond with condemnation…they’ll be tempted to only share part of the story…maybe none at all…
  • If they expect you to respond negatively…they’ll hold back some of their best ideas…afraid you’ll crush them…

However…

  • If they expect you to respond with understanding…they’ll be more likely to offer their opinions…
  • If they expect you to respond with in a supportive way…they’ll be more likely to share their dreams…
  • If they expect you to respond with an open mind…they’ll be more likely to brainstorm with you rather than without you…
  • If they expect you to respond with grace…they’ll be more likely to share the good, the bad and the ugly…

Leaders, how do others expect you to respond?

Fair or not…as a leader, the response others expect from you may help determine the way others respond to you. More importantly, however, is that ultimately that response helps determine the health of the team or organization.

Help this post out…share your experiences.  Do you tend to alter your response based on how you expect others to respond? Is this true in family and friend relationships also?

3 Ways to Respond to a Controlling Leader

I have written a good deal recently about controlling leadership.  As most of my posts do, this stems from current or past experience in leadership.  Within the past 6 months, I have talked with close to a dozen individuals in ministry or business who are experiencing this type of leader. It is effecting their personal leadership, as well as the health of their organization.

My theory is that one reason this tension is increasing is due to young leaders who want a voice at the table early in their leadership intersecting with seasoned leaders trying to hold on to power. Perhaps I’ll write more about that in another post.

If you missed any of these posts you can read:

7 Warning Signs You May Be a Controlling Leader

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

7 Reactions to Controlling Leadership

The obvious most frequent question I receive as a result of these posts involves what to do about a controlling leader? I previously wrote a post about “leading up” called 5 Ways to Influence those Who Lead You, but it addresses a leader who may not be giving you a seat at the table, but not one who is necessarily a controlling leader. Controlling leadership appears to be a more difficult issue. A leader who attempts to control everything within his or her realm is much harder to influence.

So, here’s my best answer.  Here are three ways to respond to a controlling leader:

Challenge – Like it or not, most complex issues such as this do not disappear on their own. Ask yourself, “Will I be content if this environment continues for the next year or longer?”  If the answer is no, then you may have to challenge the controlling leadership. It should be noted that you can’t challenge anyone daily.  A challenge should be planned, considerate, and infrequent, but there are times where this is the best option.

Compromise – Most controlling leaders have areas in which they are willing to compromise.  Much of his or her willingness to do so will be based on the degree of trust placed in others or how important an issue is to them personally.  Building a relationship of trust and seeking common ground on issues allows some people to excel under a controlling leader.

Quit – If one is not willing to challenge the issue or can find no areas for compromise, the only solution, other than remaining miserable under controlling leadership, is to seek opportunities elsewhere. I had someone challenge me on Twitter recently that winners never quit, but I disagree. If you were placed in a position by a call of God, this may not be an option until God releases you and I personally would attempt the first two options before considering this option, but sometimes the best thing for the individual and the organization is to make a fresh start.  (You might read my post 8 Ways to Know it’s Time to Quit.)

Let me offer this closing reminder: Every situation is unique and so no post can answer your specific situation.  One thing that all situations share, however, is that regardless of how one responds, each of us have an obligation to be humble, kind, gracious people.  In either of these three steps we should behave likewise.  Also, remember that your response to a controlling leader often determines his or her response.  Momma always said “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  The Bible says it another way…”A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  (Proverbs 15:1)

Have you ever worked with or for a controlling leader?  How did you respond? What steps am I missing? Help us learn from your experience.

7 Reactions to Controlling Leadership

Recently I was speaking with someone about their experience with a controlling leader. My friend said, “He’s just one of those humor him and move on kind of guys.” I thought to myself, “What a sad commentary to be said about one’s leadership!”

It reminds me of a similar experience I had with a controlling leader…

You see, I once had an idea…

It was a dream…a big vision…

I knew it would require risk, extra energies, and the assistance of others, but I was confident this was something worth pursuing…

I even felt it was a call of God for my life…

I was a volunteer for the organization, not an employee, but I had been given a certain amount responsibility and authority…

The only problem…

The leader of the organization was a controlling leader…

That fact alone changed the way I approached (or didn’t approach) the opportunity…

Many controlling leaders receive that kind of attention…

I’ve noticed from my own experience and watching others, that there are certain ways we tend to respond to controlling leaders…

Here are 7 examples:

  • Ignoring them instead of confronting…
  • Asking forgiveness instead of permission…
  • Keeping our best ideas until we are certain they’ll work…
  • Being afraid to share new ideas because we know they’ll be shot down…
  • Feeling the need to build a coalition of support before approaching…
  • Hiding our true thoughts and opinions rather than sharing them…
  • Keeping our relationship to “strictly professional”…

Leaders, do any of those describe how people respond to your leadership?

Don’t be that guy!

In my specific situation described above, the result was one of the 3 ways listed HERE in a previous post. Which do you think was the result?

What would you add to my list of reactions to controlling leadership?

3 Results of Controlling Leadership

One of my pet peeves in leadership is the controlling leader.  I recently wrote some warning signs that indicate a leader may be one.  You can read that post HERE, but I keep seeing the type.  Controlling leaders are in every type of organization, including in the church.  (I also wrote about the difference in leading people versus controlling them HERE.)

I recently saw a controlling leader firsthand while working with another organization.  It reminded me of the main reason I’m so opposed to controlling leaders is that it is counter-productive to healthy organizations…and I love healthy organizations.

In fact, here are 3 results I see in teams and organizations with a controlling leader:

Leaders leave – You can’t keep a leader when you control him or her…at least not for long.  Leaders need room to breathe, explore and take risks.  Controlling leaders stifle creativity and a real leader will soon look for a place to grow.

Followers stay…many times…But they are often miserable – There are people wired to follow a controlling leader.  If i were using counseling terms is call it co-dependency. Sometimes due to fear of venturing out on their own or because of a false sense of loyalty they stay, but the controlling leadership makes them miserable.

Organizations stall - Controlling leadership always limits the organization to the strengths, dreams and abilities of the controlling leader.

Want to test yourself? Read 7 Warning Signs you May be a Controlling Leader. (http://www.ronedmondson.com/2011/01/7-warning-signs-you-may-be-a-controlling-leader.html)

Dear leader, take it from a leader who has to discipline himself not to control, controlling leadership simply doesn’t work. Have you learned that principle?

Have you worked for a controlling leader?  What would you add to my list of the results of controlling leadership?