Colin Powell might have said it best, certainly most simply, when he said, “A great Leader is one who can get others to follow, even when they do not like you.”  (Nov. 2000, MMAC Symposium)

Are you a Leader?  Are others following?  Then it might be wise to define who you are as a Leader.  Some thoughts to consider in exploring what that can mean for your journey…

My preference is to think of it as Invisible Leadership.  In which today’s Leaders are those who base their interactions on trust and respect.  They possess the ability to extend themselves to others and the capacity to know when to follow, as described in the quote from Lao Tsu on this home page.  InnerVision refers to this as “invisible leadership” or the responsibility to manage the outcomes and the processes that produce results, not to manage the behaviors of their personnel.  That is their job and a great leader knows their role is to offer people guidance and influence on how to do this for themselves.  The role is still that of a Leader, steering the ship (or guiding a captain who is…) and managing the contributions of a team.  But the directives come from a nudge not a push or a suggestion instead of an order and the environment self-replicates throughout the group. 

There are four traits I emulate as the characteristics of a great Leader and use the acronym PDLR (peddler):

Path Keeper – the first task is to have a plan and strategy to achieve, then make sure everyone’s contributions fit into the purpose of the group’s objectives, producing a mosaic of work.

Decision Maker – as much as anything, followers want to know “where the buck stops,” who to turn to, knowing they take ownership and are accountable for the decisions that need to be made, even when they are contrary to the majority.  However, progressive-thinking leaders always make decisions reflective of the collective view and not limited to their own perspective.

Listener  – If your job is to be a resource to help your followers succeed, hearing their view is the stepping-stone to lending your guidance (or as Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”). The other part of listening as a Leader is to “hear” what your followers hear you say. This may be confusing, but the point is Leaders dominate the talking in most interactions and it is beneficial to verify what is being heard when you speak (their interpretation can be quite different) rather than being infatuated with what you have to say.

Role Model – Leaders should NEVER ask of anyone something they would not do themselves. In addition, one must learn to “model the roles” that they want their followers to emulate. People are always watching, paying attention to who they are following, trying to replicate what they see. As Gandhi once said, “Be the changes you want to see in the world.” Too many Leaders live the phrase, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

Likewise, there are four traits to describe the characteristics of a great Follower, using the acronym F-RAP:

Forthright – it is critical that each person speak “their” truth!  This is always most effective when it is done with a basis of respect and dignity for the listener.  However, foremost is the responsibility to honor what we know as true and be willing to take a stand for our perspective, with dignity and respect.  Ultimately, collaboration is reliant on building upon each other’s views.

Resourceful – it is not sufficient for one to do what they are told or even what one believes is expected of them; we must learn to unlock the possibilities of what we know can help make the effort more efficient.  “No one knows how to do a job better than the person doing it,” so this requires everyone to go beyond the directives and consider their own sense of what can be done to improve things, asking themselves, “is this the best I can do?”

Accountable – no system of collaboration can function without each person accepting the responsibility for their piece of the puzzle.  Any process, like accountability, that impacts an individual meets the least resistance when the people using it are co-creators of the procedures.  “What is it you are going to do and how are you going to monitor your progress?” are the fundamental questions to be answered when developing tools for measurement.

Pride of Ownership – once an individual is willing to stake their personal pride on the value of their work – to really OWN their contribution – only then is there a definitive shift that occurs in the quality of one’s performance.  There is no doubt, when people speak of their work, PRIDE is at the cornerstone of what they represent, how they describe their role.