1. Leadership begins with self. "Be the change you want to see" and "walk the talk" are oft heard phrases in today's corporate world.
2. The concepts of leadership and the definition of a good leader are discussed by every self respecting leadership trainer, facilitator, mentor and coach. No leadership training programme is complete without a discussion the differences between managing and leading.
While it is commonly accepted that there are certain traits that all good leaders demonstrate, there is usually a debate around which is more important: which are non-negotiable and which traits help in creating a greater circle of influence. As I was preparing breakfast this morning, I thought to myself, "why don't I add my two pennies worth to this on-going conversation and create an A-Z list of leadership attributes?". So here goes...
~takes a deep breath~
A: Accountability. A good leader takes accountability for the actions of self and their team / followers. During the Indian independence struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi, violence broke out at one time and a police station was burnt down with some policemen inside. The Mahatma was an advocate of peace and non-violence (as we all know). He decided to fast (i.e. abstain from eating and drinking) to make amends for the violence. This was his way of taking accountability for the actions of his people. I have been fortunate that one of my ex-colleagues took similar accountability for his team's performance. He never made excuses for them but at the same time did not expose any of them to fault-finding. He always took the accountability for late or shoddy work and took steps to improve performance.
B: Belief. A good leader has strong beliefs and is not afraid to fight for and defend those beliefs. Taking from the Mahatma's life once again, his belief that all people were created equal led to his first fight in South Africa, when he was stopped from boarding a train. Aung San Suu Kyii has spent a good part of her life in imprisonment as she fights for what she believes in. The list is endless... Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. - they lived for those beliefs. Their strong belief brought about a vast change in the lives of millions of people.
A strong belief in self is another attribute of good leadership. Think of any leader and this belief stands out. Bill Gates believed in himself and what he could do. That belief led him to drop out of school and focus on setting up Microsoft. The people of Mumbai showed leadership when they took the onus of returning the city to normalcy almost immediately post the horrific incidents of 26/11. Faith or belief in oneself can certainly move mountains, can't it?
C: Care. Such a small word and so many implications. Leaders care! They care about themselves, their people, the environment around them... they care about the work they do, they care about the protection, the welfare and the well-being of their surroundings. They care and they demonstrate that care with passion. During the SARS scare in Hong Kong during 2003, a lot of businesses in the tourism sector were affected severely. A certain organisation however showed their employees they cared. Not a single employee was shown the pink slip and not a single employee was asked to take a pay cut. All this, while a lot of other organisations were letting go of people and indulging in short-term fixes. Once Hong Kong bounced back from the SARS scare, this organisation also bounced back and today they see a visible difference - they have one of the most loyal and committed staff in the entire industry. Voluntary attrition is at an all time low.
Leadership is not rocket science and there is no one single person who can claim to know all about it. All views on leadership and attributes of a good leader are valid and important. Please do contribute your views on this blog.
One final thought: here is an interesting article I came across today. The writer talks about two apparently diverse topics: leadership and solitude. I found this article very insightful. Here's the link for those interested: http://www.theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/
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