A few months ago, as I went through some hefty soul searching, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I did a brief personality test. Pure hatred is typically felt for these things, because they’re so inaccurate, but this one was a little different. The questions were answered honestly, given the circumstances, and it revealed that I was a passive leader.
The Passive Leader
A passive leader is one who waits to be empowered and placed in charge of a given task. This described me to a T. I hate to intrude on other people’s business, and sometimes take an overly humble approach to situations. If my role is defined, I tend to stick to that role, and not stray from it. The problem is, this approach has failed too many times.
Many times recently, I’ve caught myself trying to explain this to someone and they say “ummm, you think you’re passive?” Well, I guess I did. You see, I also consider myself an excellent problem solver. For this reason, I’ve stepped up in a few areas of my life to attempt to lead things in the right direction. Most of the time, I’m convinced that I’m simply aiding someone else’s leadership, but for some reason I end up just taking charge myself. Yeah, that would be the complete opposite of passive, I know.
The two primary areas of life, outside of the home, are church and work (my current consulting gig). Each of these areas is lacking something. Well, okay, many things. Not just for me personally, but for the overall organization, I see voids that need to be filled. Both places are filled with talented people that could truly make a difference in this world if given the opportunity. The problem is, passion is being stifled for whatever reason. Most of it relates to communication and process. But to be quite honest, the main thing lacking in each area is solid leadership.
Solid leadership is so many things. I’ve been following Terry Storch’s series titled “52 Leadership Tips”. He also has a category on his blog simply titled “Leadership”. I align with Terry on nearly everything he says regarding leadership. In addition to the old standbys – integrity, honesty, etc – I think there are three huge ones for me – passion, communication, humility.
Passion has been my number one buzzword lately. As I’ve been building my personal philosophy, as well as the manifesto for my new company, I have been inspired by “Good to Great” and “Go Big or Go Home.” I do’nt think you can do either of these without passion. Again, as Terry points out, laziness, commitment and vision contribute to our “good enough” society. How can you be lazy and not committed to something you’re passionate about? If you have a passion, commit yourself fully to it. Do great things because of that passion, even if it means big changes have to take place and risks need to be taken.
Then, lead others who share that passion to do great things. If you are already a leader, and you sense your team is not fully on board, find a way to incite that passion in them. Make your vision known. The problem with every company I’ve ever been a part of is the vision is never clear. Or, even worse, the vision is simply “make the most money possible.” That tangent should be saved for another day. Following a passionate leader is easy.
I pride myself on my communication skills. You may find that hard to believe when reading this blog, but it is definitely something I feel that I do well. Now, communication is such a broad topic, there are so many different things that could be addressed, but I’ll touch on only a couple that I feel are the most important.
The first is clarity. Being able to communicate in a way that your audience understands is essential. Sometimes, it takes a different method to share the same message to multiple groups. Slang, jargon and double speak could be clouding a very important message.
Second, get rid of all barriers. Barriers can be physical, mental or emotional. Grudges are barriers. If there are interpersonal issues hindering your ability to be a leader, those need to be resolved immediately. Open your door. Take people out to lunch just because. Build a relationship. Not quite a friendship (unless you’re able to separate work & personal life), but a relationship nonetheless.
Humility is quite possibly the most important trait of all. Humility goes a long way in building respect. Show respect and earn respect. I’m not really sure there’s much else to say here. To me, it’s common sense.
Exactly, it’s common sense!
I’m sure many of you read this and thought “ummm, you just plagiarized about every leadership book out there.” I did. But why are there still so many quality people not stepping up and being leaders? Why are current leaders failing?
Why are there so many books on leadership anyway? Granted, professional development should be encouraged, but the basics? Why do these continually get set aside for process, ego and the bottom line? It seems to me that if you are an effective leader by doing a few basic things, the rest falls into place without much work at all. Too many people do too many things backwards. Leadership is one of them.