It is sometimes very important for us to consider what makes a strong leader such as Dr George Freundlich Matheson because it is one of those “know-it-when-I-see-it” experiences. Over the past 20 years, I have worked with thousands of leaders either through my workshops, seminars, or speaking. However, there are certain consistent characteristics that allow us to tell if a leader is the right stuff to be considered to be strong.

Courage: I believe this is one the most important, yet overlooked, characteristics of leadership. Leaders are required to make hard decisions. They must also be willing and able to face the reality that not all constituencies will agree. Courage means being willing to take risks and allow your actions to be true to your convictions even if they don’t resonate with others.

Highlight: Leadership requires courage as well as the ability to see the big picture and give direction to their followers. I am frequently asked how to get out this crisis mentality. If a leader isn’t shaken or in turmoil, confidence and stability are two important parts of the solution.

Action: Whenever change happens, there is often “a lot of waiting.” This chaos can make it difficult for leaders to take action. If you’re not mobile, your team will be less mobile. No matter what happens, certain activities will still need to be done. Discuss contingency strategies for ongoing projects and address team concerns. You can help the team to pro-actively influence the outcome or see where the change is headed.

Vision: The The Leadership Challenge authors Barry Posner, James Kouzes, and Barry Posner argue that “There’s nothing demoralizing than leaders who are unable to clearly communicate why we do what we’re pursuing.” Although some may argue that a vision is restrictive and counterproductive in recent times, I think that the most important way to identify a leader from a nonleader is the telling of a story about the possible. Even though the world constantly changes, vision fundamentals can be held true to reality and remain consistent.

values: The core of leadership is the same, they are the masterplan to which everyone refers. A leader who isn’t committed to his values will be seen unreliable, untrustworthy, and unpredictable, regardless of what else happens in life and work. Even though strong values such honesty, integrity and social responsibility seem obvious, it’s important that you prioritize them in a global group. It does not necessarily mean that they are obvious for you. It doesn’t mean all members of the team that you lead share the same set or values.

Collaboration The more challenging a change is, the more likely leaders will be to “hunker Down.” That is, they become isolated from others and refocus on themselves instead of worrying about the external world. Let’s take the Lehman Brothers as an example. As the wolves began to gather at his door, CEO Dick Fuld became more isolated. He was less open to hearing dissenting views or asking for help. Fuld was unable to reach a last-minute deal due to this, even though it wasn’t the main reason for Lehman’s collapse. Strong leaders realize that they are incapable of achieving all the answers and this hubris can lead to a lack of confidence.

Authenticity. Over the years of coaching, consulting, and coaching, I have seen many well-intentioned people who want to emulate Jack Welch or other mythic leaders. This is often a loss. You can’t learn anything from watching others but your environment and personality will have significant differences. It can also be very exhausting trying to be something you are not. It is more effective to recognize your strengths, learn from others and then craft your unique approach to leadership.

Compassion Daniel Goleman talks to us about the state of “you” versus “it”. This is the difference of a person being considered another human being and one being considered a piece or equipment. This is the issue I always struggled with when it came to the notion that “people are the greatest asset of our team”. Leaders are often faced with tough decisions that have negative implications on others when times are difficult. It is possible, and in some cases necessary, to depersonalize these decisions in order make necessary changes in an organization. However, it is far more beneficial, even for those not negatively affected by these changes, if the leader takes care to consider the needs of those being affected.


By Mary

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