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?

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?

7 Ways to Maintain Respect as a Leader

As a leader, one of your most valuable assets is the respect of the people you are leading.  If a leader is respected, people will follow him or her almost anywhere.   If a leader loses the respect from the ones he or she leads, it becomes very difficult to regain that respect.

Often a new leader is given respect because of his or her position as a leader, but respect can be quickly lost due to performance.  Many times, it’s the seemingly small things which cause the most damage to a leader’s reputation.

I have found that with a few simple (some not so simple) acts help protect the respect a leader enjoys:

  • Return phone calls and emails promptly…
  • Do what you say you will do…
  • Act with integrity…
  • Use fairness in your approach…not too harsh…not too soft…
  • Show others respect…
  • Learn continually and encourage growth in yourself and others…
  • Work as hard or harder than others…

Maintaining respect is a matter of acting in a respectable way.  How are you doing in that area?  (You may want to ask the ones you are supposed to be leading…Read how I do that each year HERE.)

What would you add to my list?

3 Critical Aspects of Planning for Future Growth

The main battle for your organization’s long-term success doesn’t exist where you are…it exists where you are going…

Regardless of how great or bad something may be now, this moment will pass. The successes created today will soon fade and current struggles don’t necessarily indicate future victories.

Take writing for example. Unless you are Rick Warren or a handful of others, the best selling authors have to continue to create new material to stay on the best sellers list. In the business world, the hottest products are only as hot as the next great update or until another “greater” product is introduced. Momentum dies…people lose interest…motivation for what you are promoting fades and something new is needed to keep growing.

On the other hand, if an organization is struggling today that doesn’t always mean they’ll struggle tomorrow. Sometimes one big break turns things from stagnant to growing to thriving. Obviously attention has to be current to survive, but struggling organizations often need to focus even more intently on the future.

At some point, to remain viable and to succeed, organizations have to concentrate on days ahead, because a new day is coming. These principles are truer now than ever before. If an organization wants to be successful over time, then it must be winning the battle for the future.

Here are three aspects or planning for future growth every organization must have:

Strategic thinking – There must be a concerted effort placed on thinking about next steps for the organization. If strategic thinking isn’t a leader’s strength (although I think it’s difficult to lead well without this skill), someone in the organization must be delegated the task of strategically thinking forward. The future is coming…things are changing…and the organization must be able to strategically respond.

Flexibility and adaptability – Today’s leader must remain flexible enough to adapt to change quickly. Most likely the plans you set today will be altered in some way tomorrow. As a leader, you must be open to change personally and learn how to lead others to embrace change within the organization.

Staffing and team-building – An organization will only be as good as the people who make up the organization, so the future is dependent on attracting and retaining the best people. Great leaders are planning ahead for staffing needs, always on the lookout for good people and intentionally seeking to develop people in the organization. Great leaders allow people to explore, possess authority and become leaders. In today’s organizations, the strength of the team is the strength of the organization.

I have been on both sides of an organization…both striving and struggling…and I believe all three of these aspects are true in both scenarios. I see these three as critical to the future growth of any organization, but I’m still learning and organizations are changing every day, so help me here. What am I missing? What would you add to my list?